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Profiles in Leadership

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Even though Atul Gawande is at the top of his profession—he’s a leading surgeon, journalist and winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant—he knows he’s capable of improving his professional performance. That’s why he hired a coach.
Leaders cannot talk their way out of a deteriorating business. To reverse course, take bold steps. Bob Flexon became Dynegy’s CEO in July 2011; four months later, the energy company filed for bankruptcy. To boost morale, Flexon unveiled a series of dramatic changes.
Within a week of Kevin Johnson becoming CEO of Juniper Networks in 2008, he met with all his direct reports in a group. He told them he wanted to listen and learn, so he asked four questions.
Ivar Kroghrud sees himself as “chief ironing officer.” In his 13 years as CEO of QuestBack, he spent much of his time ironing out employees’ problems. He’s now lead strategist at the Oslo, Norway-based firm, which provides feedback management tools.

Bruce Halle’s competitors keep expanding their service and product offerings to capture a bigger chunk of car owners’ expenditures. Why does Halle resist? Because his strategy is to address what the consumer is actually buying.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, frequently borrows a phrase from legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who likes to say “next play” after every sequence on the basketball court. It’s a way to focus players on what they need to do to succeed.
For decades, management experts have praised Jack Welch as a model leader. The former CEO of General Electric was famous for firing the lowest-rated performers every year, causing employees to compete with each other to retain their jobs. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, rejects that approach.
During Facebook’s meteoric rise from startup to global giant, founder Mark Zuckerberg sought to preserve the company’s innovative culture. He achieved this by embracing what he calls “The Hacker Way.”
In just over a decade, the Tufts University men’s lacrosse team has gone from worst to first under head coach Mike Daly. Instead of focusing on wins, Daly urged players to take pride in mastering the details and always improving their craft.
Starting his career as a junior naval officer, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr. earned a series of promotions to become the youngest vice admiral in Navy history. He commanded U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and, at age 49, became chief of naval operations—the youngest man to serve as the Navy’s highest-ranking ­officer.
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