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Leadership Imperatives

As you read this, Barack Obama will have been inaugurated as the U.S.’s 44th chief executive. Fittingly, as the U.S. …

As you read this, Barack Obama will have been inaugurated as the U.S.’s 44th chief executive. Fittingly, as the U.S. turns a corner with new leadership at the helm of the federal government, we explore in this issue two facets of leadership governing private enterprise: the prospects for growth and opportunity in international markets and what companies are doing at the organizational level to foster leaders within. Our coverage of CE’s Tenth Annual CEO2CEO Leadership Summit begins on page 50, and our fourth annual rankings of the best companies for developing leaders starts on page 38.

At the Summit, Robert Lawrence Kuhn addressed the sea change in thinking among China’s leadership, something he continues in his multipart series on China in his Uncommon Wisdom column on page 25. China represents something of a paradox. On the one hand, it has no choice but to expand at unsustainable rates of growth. Slower growth rates means fewer jobs and thus the prospect for greater and potentially dangerous political and social tensions.

Since the meltdown of financial markets and the rise of TARP we are faced with another question of unsustainability. Can the U.S government spend its way to prosperity? Last year, on the campaign trail, Barack Obama said, “The core of our economic success is the fundamental truth that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well-being of American business, its capital markets, and the American people are aligned.” One hopes that as he assumes office he will tone done the inflammatory populist rhetoric of those in his party who, in their zeal to level society, would reverse the impressive process of global wealth creation and poverty reduction.

The parallels the press has drawn between Obama and Abraham Lincoln are legion. Indeed, Team of Rivals author Doris Kearns Goodwin recently appeared on “Meet the Press” to underscore the point. (In truth there is far more that separates them. Lincoln, for example, was self-taught; Obama is a graduate of establishment schools Harvard and Columbia.)

Faced with a choice between loyalty and brilliance, most leaders, afraid they will be undercut, choose the former. In their recent book, Strengths- Based Leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie point to what research organizations like Gallup have done to uncover what makes a great leadership team. Having studied thousands of executive teams, they found that the most cohesive and successful teams possessed four key strengths: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. Curiously, many of these elements are also found in the Hay Group’s study of what the best companies seek in new leaders.

About J.P. Donlon

J.P. Donlon
J.P. Donlon is Editor Emeritus of Chief Executive magazine.