In honor of the closing days of 2010, it is only fitting for me to reflect on some of the leadership lessons learned from the daily news this past year. Here are my seven picks for notable “leaders” and “losers” for the past 12 months.
Please let me know your picks in either category, and if your recommendation is chosen for an update in 2011, you’ll get a copy of my book “The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make“ and your contribution will be featured in an upcoming edition of “Leaderslips & Tips: the Good, the Bad, and the Bungled” (sign up here).
Leader – Chilean Miner and Shift Supervisor Luis Urzua for organizing, mobilizing, and supporting his fellow miners for more than 70 days after the collapse of the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo, Chile. The disaster trapped 33 miners nearly half a mile underground, with meager resources, and little chance of being found or rescued. Mr. Urzua assigned tasks, rationed supplies, instilled discipline, and maintained morale under impossible odds. In short, he combined key principles of leadership in an unprecedented situation to help achieve a successful result.
Loser – Golf legend Tiger Woods for his tardy, emotionless and incongruent “apology conference” in February. Mistakes are expected and forgivable offenses; however, misdeeds (like Mr. Woods’) call for consequences and contrition. Tiger’s apologies came so late in the game that they appeared pragmatic, like a box that needed checking before he could get back to golf. His delivery was stilted and rehearsed, and the setting was contrived for publicity purposes.
Leader – Former Chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools Michelle Rhea for her personal and relentless commitment to educational excellence. Ms. Rhea has been called “woman warrior” for taking bold and unpopular action to fix one of the nation’s most troubled school systems and improve test scores in the process. Featured on the cover of Time magazine and in the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” she also attracted critics and made enemies, as bold leaders often do. She resigned in November when one of those critics became her boss after the election, refused high-paying job offers as a result of her notoriety, and began a larger initiative to catalyze education reform nationwide.
Loser – Former BP CEO Tony Hayward for his wayward public relations and icy demeanor in the aftermath of the deadly Gulf rig explosion and oil spill. He coolly minimized the event, was haughty before Congress, and appeared largely detached from the unfolding tragedy. In a pivotal television interview, he stated sullenly, “We’re sorry” a few times but reversed any chance of empathy by adding sharply, “…you know I’d like my life back.” Staunchly supported by BP’s Board of Directors for most of the crisis, Hayward was quietly replaced by a subordinate in July.
Leader – Former CEO of Accurate Background Checks Lola Gonzalez for her unique and unselfish departure as head of her company. Her Florida-based business was suffering from the tough economy, and she felt forced to cut jobs to help it stay afloat. Instead of starting at the bottom or making across-the-board job cuts, however, she began at the top, downsizing herself out of a job and putting control in the hands of her associates. Stating that the company was staffed with smart people who could carry on without her, she turned over the keys to them in November.
Loser – Former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards for his betrayal of trust and lack of values-based leadership. After a series of revelations about his misdeeds during and after his presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Edwards finally admitted in 2010 that he fathered a child with a former campaign worker, even while his wife stoically battled cancer. His charming persona had contributed to his success to a point, but his behavior and above-the-law arrogance was finally revealed and reviled.
Leader – Panama City School Board Member Ginger Littleton for her spontaneous act of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, force, and fire power. On December 15, Clay Duke emerged from the audience, painted an ominous symbol on the courtroom wall, and started threatening Ms. Littleton and the rest of the board with a handgun. Even though she was dismissed by the would-be assassin, Ms. Littleton only pretended to leave the room, snuck up behind the killer, and struck at him with her purse, hoping to dislodge the weapon and save her colleagues. While the rest of the board sat motionless, she put her life on the line to save theirs. She is a leader for her decisiveness, valor, and selfless values.
Please let me know what you think of these and what your picks would be for 2010. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!