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Leadership lesson from Goldman’s CEO

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

The first time Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, was put in charge of something—the foreign exchange business—the business started losing money right away.

Even by the standards of the day, it wasn’t much money. But it meant a lot to Blankfein. Nervous as hell, he went to his boss.

“Blankfein said, ‘You know, we’re losing money.’ And the boss said, ‘Well, what would you do?’ Blankfein said what he would do, and the boss said: ‘That sounds right. Why don’t you do that?’”

Blankfein would always remember that leadership lesson.

“His validation made it my idea if it worked, and his problem if it didn’t. So he took a lot of pressure off me. He took weight off the scale for me,” he says.

A second lesson from that meeting? How to inspire—or defeat—confidence.

As Blankfein was leaving the room, his boss said, “Lloyd, just one second before you go. Why don’t you stop in the men’s room first and throw some water on your face, because if people see you looking as green as you look, they’ll jump out the window.”

—Adapted from “Lessons Learned at Goldman,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times. 

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