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When leaders need to be boring

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Stanford professor Bob Sutton regards leadership as an expression of comedy and tragedy.

For instance, he has said that good leaders know when to be boring, vague, emotionally detached and authoritarian.

In a recent interview, he was asked when boredom might be desirable.

Sutton described the plight of Don Petersen, CEO of Ford after the Iacocca era, when the company had almost nothing but bad news.

Petersen was invited to speak at the National Press Club.

“He didn’t want to do it,” Sutton says. “At the time, Ford had no good cars at all. But he and his PR chief decided he would go and give a speech about the most boring subject they could think of. At the time, that was safety. He practiced speaking in the most boring way possible, using the passive voice and long sentences. He put up charts that were hard to read, and then turned his back to the audience to talk about the charts. After that, the press lost interest in him for a while, so he could concentrate on doing the work.”

— Adapted from “Leadership: A thoroughly counterintuitive approach,” Leigh Buchanan interview with Bob Sutton, Inc.

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