Richard Anderson’s Guide to Tactical Leadership

We spend a lot of time here defining and illustrating leadership – less on the very tangible application of it. One thing I liked about the Anderson interview is that he offers some tactical advice. As a public service, I will summarize it here:

1. Never lose your temper.

2. Thank employees and customers in writing. He suggests hand-written notes, writes half a dozen a day.

3. Use interviews to surface the intangibles like ability to adapt to change. I found this one less persuasive, at least his operational advice:

I learned that from a C.E.O. I worked for. The C.E.O. wouldn’t really spend that much time on the résumé, but spent most of the time wanting to know everything about the person’s life, family, what they liked, where they liked to go on vacation, what their kids were like. And it gave you a really good perspective about who they were as people.

The social scientists have revealed our relatively strong bias for people who are like us. For example, it would take superhuman discipline for me not to hire someone on the spot who told me that his ideal vacation was hiding in a dark, climate-controlled hotel room with no sounds of children or pets. If someone who’d be a good poolside companion for you is also the best person for the job, bonus. In my experience, it rarely works out that way. “Cultural fit” can be an insidious way to ensure homogeneity of thinking and action, an increasingly reliable path to mediocrity.

4. Just say no to powerpoint. Make people communicate with subjects, verbs and objects.

5. And, finally, my favorite advice, quoted in full. If nothing else, this man can run a meeting:

Q. How do you run meetings?

A. One, get the materials out ahead of time and make sure they are succinct and to the point. Second, start the meeting on time. Third, I tend to be a stoic going into the meeting. I want the debate. I want to hear everybody’s perspective, so you want to try to ask more questions than make statements. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use BlackBerrys in meetings. You might as well have the newspaper and open the newspaper up in the middle of the meeting. So let’s stay focused on what we’re doing. Let’s have a really good debate, but it can’t get uncollegial. If it gets uncollegial, we actually have a bell you can ring, in the conference room.

Q. Tell me more about this.

A. If you are in a really hard debate and somebody veers off the subject and goes after you in a way that isn’t fair, you get to ring the bell. It’s a violation of the rules of the road. So you ring the bell if something wasn’t a fair shot, and we all laugh.

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