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Top dogs are turning on the charm

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Notice how America’s CEOs are suddenly making nice? These days, “nice” is a leadership tool, especially in light of Enron-style accounting, vanishing pensions, quarter-billion-dollar executive pay packages and bloggers eager to report what it’s like to work at your organization.

“Positive energy is the Holy Grail of business right now,” notes University of Michigan professor Kim Cameron.

Even if you’re not a particularly high-profile leader, you can take a page—or not—from these names in the news:

Good dog. John P. Mackey, cofounder and chief executive of the Whole Foods supermarket chain, caps his own cash compensation at 14 times the average wage of his employees.

“When you have executives gouging their companies, says Mackey, “it undermines trust. Frankly, they aren’t worth that much.” Nice.

Bad dog. Robert Nardelli, hailed as an operational genius at GE, is catching a bad rap as CEO at Home Depot, where he’s been accused of giving short shrift to customers, employees and shareholders. He spent a total of 30 minutes at the annual shareholders meeting in May and didn’t take questions. Not nice.

Fact is, Gen Y workers won’t sit still for bosses who act like jerks. Young staffers grew up in an “open source” world, and they’re scarce enough to demand engaging work in a respectful workplace.

In the words of The Likability Factor author Tim Sanders: “If the average employee has a pit in his stomach instead of a song in his heart, your profits will go down.”

—Adapted from “Charm Offensive,” Diane Brady, BusinessWeek Online, www.businessweek.com.

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