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  • How to be an Executive Who Learns/Does Not Learn

    Posted by David Foster on November 3rd, 2013 (All posts by )

    Here’s David Cote, CEO of Honeywell Inc:

    Your job as a leader is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.

    And here’s Barack Obama, President of the United States:

    I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.

    Is it likely that a person with the latter worldview will come out of a meeting knowing/understanding more than he did when he went into it?

     

    8 Responses to “How to be an Executive Who Learns/Does Not Learn”

    1. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Great minds must think alike because I read that interview this morning and thought it was excellent, as well.

      He said another thing in that he needed people around him who could say “no” but do it constructively so that they didn’t just hurl off the cliff at 130mph when he had a bad idea.

    2. tomw Says:

      I read somewhere that “Good leaders hire people smarter than they are. Second rate leaders hire people who are not as smart, and get second rate results.
      We have a third-rate, affirmative action ‘leader’ who surrounds himself with sycophants and people who care more about their Party and enrichment than they do about the country. They are likely not as smart as Teh Won, so results appear to be third rate too. Nothing seems to be thought out more than one or two days into the future. I see no evidence of any long term objective or planning.
      Leading from behind is what the man following two mules does, yelling gee and haw as appropriate, hoping for some reaction to the command…

    3. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      It depends on whether your management style and view of humanity is closer to Xerxes or to Eisenhower. I’m betting on Obama being more Persian in his world view, and viewing competence [unless accompanied by slavish devotion] as being a threat.

      No, he won’t learn anything at any meeting. Meetings to him are to impress his own brilliance and intentions on the lesser beings.

      Subotai Bahadur

    4. David Foster Says:

      A quote from Xenophon in a thread at NeoNeocon:

      “There is no shorter road, my son,” said (Cambyses to his son Cyrus), “than really to be wise in those things in which you wish to seem to be wise; and when you examine concrete instances, you will realize that what I say is true. For example, if you wish to seem to be a good farmer when you are not, or a good rider, doctor, flute-player, or anything else that you are not, just think how may schemes you must invent to keep up your pretensions. And even if you should persuade any number of people to praise you, in order to give yourself a reputation, and if you should procure a fine outfit for each of your professions, you would soon be found to have practiced deception; and not long after, when you were giving an exhibition of your skill, you would be shown up and convicted, too, as an imposter.”

      Sadly, Obama never had a father who gave him this kind of advice.

    5. Robert Schwartz Says:

      5 years ago in these pages I called Hussein and empty suit.

      Arrogant, thin skinned, and narcissistic are all adjectives that apply.

      As for smart, I have never heard anything smart come out of his mouth. Smart @$$, yes, intelligent, no.

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Is it likely that a person with the latter worldview will come out of a meeting knowing/understanding more than he did when he went into it?

      Of course not, but most of the people reading this blog probably already understand that. The problem is the many people who, years after Obama was first elected president, still consider him to be an acceptable leader.

    7. Gringo Says:

      So howcum Obama doesn’t say “I think I’m a better liar than Richard Nixon/Bll Clinton?”

    8. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      One of the best managers I ever had, a German who escaped the communists in East Germany as a child with his family no less, said essentially the same thing to me once. Paraphrasing, ‘You never want to put the guy in charge who thinks he has all the answers.” He was extremely bright, but always always always talked to everyone involved before he made policy changes, personnel changes or priority changes on projects. He hated big meetings and always preferred to talk to people individually or in small groups. He asked open ended questions then generally listened much more than he spoke. ‘Tell me what’s going on with project X. What do you think of the new way we’re doing Y, how that working out, well or not? Why? What would you do differently?” The world could use more managers like him, and America could use more immigrants like him too.