The Leadership Moment : Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All
Are you ready for the leadership moment Merck's Roy Vagelos commits millions of dollars to develop a drug needed only by people who can't afford itEugene Kranz struggles to bring the Apollo 13 astronauts home after an explosion rips through their spacecraftArlene Blum organizes the first women's ascent of one of the world's most dangerous mountainsJoshua Lawrence Chamberlain leads his tattered troops into a pivotal Civil War battle at Little Round TopJohn Gutfreund loses Salomon Brothers when his inattention to a trading scandal almost topples the Wall Street giantClifton Wharton restructures a $50 billion pension system direly out of touch with its customersAlfredo Cristiani transforms El Salvador's decade-long civil war into a negotiated settlementNancy Barry leads Women's World Banking in the fight against Third World povertyWagner Dodge faces the decision of a lifetime as a fast-moving forest fire overtakes his firefighting crew
Every head of state in business or politics who believes it's lonely at the top can take refuge in this broad look at the travails of leadership by the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Useem picks nine leaders from different realms of business, public service and government, and focuses on one critical decision that each had to make. For NASA flight director Eugene Kranz, it was guiding a crippled Apollo 13 back to Earth. For El Salvador's President Alfredo Cristiani, it was bringing an end to his country's civil war. The stories are packed with detail, and some include charts and tabular matter as well. Useem does an excellent job of underscoring the lessons that would-be leaders should take away from his profiles. For example, as part of the Apollo 13 story, "When both speed and precision count, sharing information and keeping everybody's eye on both goals simultaneously are essential for achieving both," he says.Commenting on John Gutfreund's loss of Salomon Inc.("one of Wall Street's richest companies"), Useem writes, "Inaction can be as damaging to leadership as inept action." These lessons are brought home again, often in the same words,in the Conclusion and the Leader's Guide, a listing of nostrums for aspiring managers. 32 photos. (Sept.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1997
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Excerpt from The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem
"It's where you start your team building" argues Kranz. "The first thing I did in establishing the team building is to look at 'co-location': I want similar people working together as an element of a team." He grouped people across levels, and he grouped outside contractors with inside employees. Occasionally the arrangements violated civil service rules, but when told to conform, Kranz invented ways around them.
Implicit comprehension was a key objective of the team building: "You learn to use the nonverbal communication," Kranz says. "You develop the feeling whether this guy needs a few more seconds to work out a problem. Sometimes you'll change your polling procedures" in surveying the controllers before taking a decision. "You're going to come to him last, you're going to give him a few more seconds."
As a final reinforcing measure, Kranz arranged his flight teams into their own baseball league. The flight teams then challenged the astronaut teams on the football field. Other seasons produced still more competitive sports, even judo.
The team-building payoffs were evident in Room 210. The forty or so people working there had to solve dozens of interrelated problems on the fly, weaving hundreds of specific steps into broader fabric. They had to restructure technological systems so tightly coupled that tiny changes in one could create havoc in another. When a guidance controller proposed deicing Odyssey's thruster jets by briefly firing the engines, another controller immediately protested that the deicing could ruin the guidance system of the still-attached Aquarius. Those responsible for the flight's dynamics, guidance, and later retrofiring objected that the firing could divert the spacecraft from its required trajectory. Yet they quickly found an effective solution, reaffirming the collective virtues of the endless simulations and sports.
By implication: Developing teams and teams of teams through training and exercise can create the implicit understandings that make for fast and accurate decision making when the teams are under duress but must act.
The Two Faces of Leadership
Eugene Kranz enduredthe crisis with an unshakable faith that it would be resolved the right way. His optimism stemmed from an optimistic appraisal of the decision-making
apparatus he had fostered since taking control of the Apollo missions just two years earlier. "I thought that as a group we were smart enough and clever enough," he would later say, "to get out of any problem." Kranz's latticework of teams and specialists served as half the leadership formula. His driving optimism and demand for accuracy among the teamsand specialists added the other half.
Managers are vested with certain areas of authority from the day they arrive: they can revise budgets, assign people, and give raises. These are the levers of office shown in the bottom rectangle in Figure 3. 1-the ones Kranz was handed the minute he first stepped through the door of his new office. Like all successful managers, though, Kranz realized that the vested powers of office are only a platform to build on. As opposed to merely managing, leadership can be defined as moving above those vested powers in both personal and organizational ways, as shown in the upper rectangles in Figure 3.1.