The uncompromising leader
Journal article, 2008
Managing the tension between performance and people is at the heart of the CEO's job. But CEOs under fierce pressure from capital markets often focus solely on the shareholder, which can lead to employee disenchantment. Others put so much stock in their firms' heritage that they don't notice as their organizations slide into complacency. Some leaders, though, manage to avoid those traps and create high-commitment, high-performance (HCHP) companies. The authors' in-depth research of HCHP CEOs reveals several shared traits: These CEOs earn the trust of their organizations through their openness to the unvarnished truth. They are deeply engaged with their people, and their exchanges are direct and personal. They mobilize employees around a focused agenda, concentrating on only one or two initiatives. And they work to build collective leadership capabilities. These leaders also forge an emotionally resonant shared purpose across their companies. That consists of a three-part promise: The company will help employees build a better world and deliver performance they can be proud of, and will provide an environment in which they can grow. HCHP CEOs approach finding a firm's moral and strategic center in a competitive market as a calling, not an engineering problem. They drive their firms to be strongly market focused while at the same time reinforcing their firms' core values. They are committed to short-term performance while also investing in long-term leadership and organizational capabilities. By refusing to compromise on any of these terms, they build great companies.