Archive for July, 2011

Qualities of a War time CEO …

Posted on July 23, 2011. Filed under: Business, From a Services Career, Personalities |

There is this Post, which I have just been referred, on Ben’s Blog on Qualities of a Wartime CEO vis a vis a Peace time CEO in context of Larry Page becoming CEO of Google just when it is entering the Social Media Space currently dominated by Facebook.

Great Article on Google’s dilemma re the shift from Greatest Search Engine to Dominating the Social Sphere by a change of CEO. The author himself changed from what he calls, peacetime CEO to war time CEO and hence has spelled out the qualities needed for peace time and war time CEOs. As the post does not enable comments, this post gives another view.

Would never have dreamed of entering the lists against such a formidable track record. But the subject is peace and war time leadership cum management. Having seen some war and peace in a 40 yr stint and being a life long student of leadership, a subject of which my heart is full, I am unwilling to suppress the outpouring of its spontaneous sentiments.

So here goes.

There are of course lots of differences between leading and managing. Lots of stuff has been tabled. Peter Drucker for one says, “Management and Efficiency is Doing things Right. Leadership and Effectiveness is Doing the Right Things”.

The difference between Leadership and Management is epitomized by the persona of Patton and Ike. The nearest to a compromise could be Bradley. Mark the fact that no one ever wanted or tried to become anything other than himself.

The most important thing is that there is NO fixed hierarchy of qualities for Great Leaders. Clausewitz says that energy in the conduct of war is the preeminent quality followed by courage.

As an example, the BBC announced in early Feb ’41 that, “an obscure German general, Erwin Rommel, has landed in North Africa”. Wavell surmised that the earliest the German’s could launch their offensive would be Apr. In the event, Rommel began moving within the fortnight – after having quieted his own high command by saying he was only doing a recce in force.

Within weeks he had taken Benghazi and rolled back the front several hundred miles. By next year Churchill was obsessed with beating him and even announced in Parliament, “In Africa, we have a brave and daring opponent against us. And may I say across the havoc of war – a great general”.

Permit me to take on each of the points re peace time and war time behavior  listed in Ben’s Blog.

First of all such stuff as ‘Protocol, Profanity, Raising of Voice, Culture, Handling Conflict cum Contradiction and so forth’, is entirely personality based. It is addressed the same way in peace and war depending entirely on ones persona. Think Scipio and Hannibal! 

Would any one ever vouch for Washington or Robert E Lee using the cuss word? And for Grant, Sherman or Vinegar Joe Stilwell, not doing so?

As a further example, mark the recalled Sharon’s loud and clear voice over the radio, in the ’73 War, telling his boss, who had been his junior not so long ago“If you had any balls, I would tell you to cut them and eat them.” And Sharon made PM.

Similarly, ‘Recruiting Machines and HR Orgs’ are irrelevant for any salty personality. About that speck of dirt being a worry for a war time CEO, this is what Wavell ruled, “A horse in the stable should be looked after as if it were worth ten thousand pound. In the field it should be ridden as if it were not worth half a crown”.

And Wavell is the guy of whom Rommel wrote, “The only British General who showed a touch of genius”.

As regards pushing hard or changing tack, again it is the Leaders decision. When Auchinleck closed the rear (with mines and armor) of the advancing Rommel, the latter turned around and attacked backwards. Similarly in the Korean War when the advancing X Corps was cut off from its rear, it turned around and fought by advancing backward.

In both cases it would have been stupid to carry on moving forward!

On the other hand when Wingate’s glider borne chindits were to be landed behind Japanese lines, air photos of the select landing zones taken a day before, showed that these had been covered by obstacles and logs. The Q was whether to carry on or cancel the operation as it may have been compromised.

Bill Slim mentions the loneliness of decision making when he ruled that the operation would go on. He then goes on to watch Cochrane, the US AF Commander jump on the bonnet of his Jeep and yell, “Hey fellas, come over here! We gotta better place to go!”

Bill Slim writes that the only thing he ever bothered about in any operational order was the ‘Aim’ and he left the details to his staff. His priority was visiting troops. Montgomery records that he spent a third of his time reviewing his subordinates.

As regards consensus building and tolerating disagreements, listen to President DeGaulle, “Gentlemen I have heard your views. They do not correspond to mine. The motion is carried unanimously!”

About employee training, know that in Napoleons army, every soldier carried a Marshals baton in his knapsack. And he himself always had with him,  Plutarch’s ‘Lives’.

Sadly incompetency is much too common and rampant everywhere. Douglas Haig, who led the British Army in WWI became a non entity the moment he stepped off the gang plank on his return to England.

In conclusion, peace or war, You are You and You Must Remain So! Always build, improve and excel in the more serious stuff. Never heed the superficial stuff by imitating A, B or C.

So, each to his or her own. All that matters is Winning.

Whether Larry Page is able to deliver in making Google pre eminent in the Social Media segment depends entirely on what he has within himself. Certainly not in imbibing some supposedly needed superficial stuff.      

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