Leadership Is Critical Right Now


Leadership Is Critical Right Now
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As we emerge from the pandemic, unsettling events that most current executives have never experienced are putting the business world in an state of flux.   

The importance of effective business leadership is more critical now than ever before because decisions made during the next year or two may very well set the pattern for the future.

Managers will have to be especially resilient.  The best ones will share many of the characteristics of the Navy Seals, who have proven themselves able to perform efficiently and flexibly under stress.  

The Seals typically have a positive and optimistic outlook, as well as calmness, self-control and tenacity.  Most importantly, they are not dogmatic; they are able to come up with innovative solutions and act decisively when circumstances are changing rapidly. 

In his recent book “Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy,” former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger points out, “Leadership is most essential during periods of transition, when values and institutions are losing their relevance, and the outlines of a worthy future are in controversy.” 

Admiral James Stavridis, who reviewed Kissinger’s book for The Wall Street Journal, observes that “Mr. Kissinger is an astute observer of the personal element in strategy—the art and science of leadership, or how, on the executive level, decisions are made, trust earned, promises kept, a way forward proposed.”   

As Kissinger says, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” 

In his analysis of six effective leaders, Kissinger writes that all were known for their “personal discipline, self-improvement, charity, patriotism and self-belief, and that they shared a strength of inner character and knowledge of history.”   

Stavridis’ review also highlights an additional leadership trait: “The ability to tell hard truth to their followers.” 

Good leaders have personal integrity and strong moral principles; they are honest and truthful. They do the honorable thing, even if it might temporarily put them in a bad light. They lead by example and accept responsibility for their actions.  

They are respectful, have empathy toward others and are worthy of trust. They listen to the ideas of experts and non-experts alike, but in the end their decisions are grounded in reality. They realize that there may be occasions when they have to reinvent themselves to cope with changing conditions. 

Kissinger feels that boldness is a part of effective leadership.  Outstanding leaders are willing to take risks, and their experience and character improve the odds of success. 

There are other desirable leadership characteristics.  As U.S. President John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” In the end, of course, effective leaders cannot be characterized by a simple list of traits.  Exceptional leaders are not necessarily born that way—most of us have to work at it. 

There are different ways to get there. Each individual has to find his or her best path, but the qualities outlined in this column may serve as useful goals.  

Jack Goodhue, management coach, can be reached at

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