Better Under Pressure - Justin Menkes
I’m usually a little nervous about books that focus on the attributes of the great CEOs. I think there is often too much emphasis given on the correlation between an organisation’s success and the behaviours and attitudes of the CEO. There may have been a time when the influence of the CEO was high, but in today’s world leadership is necessarily more distributed through the organisation, and success depends on everyone in the organisation showing leadership, taking responsibility and ownership.
To be fair to the author, he makes it clear that he doesn’t believe in a reductionist approach whereby you can predict or select based on three attributes and guarantee success. He sees these attributes as symptoms of the success as much as they are the cause.
Also, the lessons in this book will be applicable to very valid for a wider group than just the CEOs. Justin makes it a good read through the interesting use of stories in the simple structure is created. His approach was to analyse a range of qualities across 200 CEOs ranked by performance and to look for correlation between success and the leadership qualities. These were honed down into three broad categories
The three attributes are realistic optimism, subservience to purpose and finding order in chaos. I can see the value of these factors and how they link in with other similar studies and so this has plausibility in my view
Realistic optimism is contrasted with impervious optimism. A leader has to have a vision and be optimistic about its implementation whilst at the same time being aware of the actual circumstances in which they are operating. I think we can all agree on the danger of impervious optimism and have many examples of our own here.
Subservience to purpose is about the dedication to the goal. The most successful CEOs have an attractive vision that they personally drive through. The same is true of leaders at all levels: having a vision you truly believe in gives you the drive to achieve and gives your team the inspiration to support you. I see a link here to Patrick Lencioni only is model of dysfunctional teams. In this, the top level, results, is about the focus that you put on the success of the that overall unit not your own personal fiefdom
The last one, finding order in chaos, is that ability to maintain clarity of thought even when things are going wrong. The ability to sift out the important information and to make timely decisions based on that. Emotional intelligence is key here. That ability to maintain calm and focus, to avoid the amygdala hijack, whilst still retaining that ability to express the emotions of passion or anger or whatever is appropriate.
Overall, a fascinating read about how great leaders bring out the best in themselves and in others