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Interview with Dr. Andres Alonso

“Turning Around a School System” Interview with Dr. Andres Alonso CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools Leaders Speak Series We interviewed Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, about his approach to leadership and the unique challenges of running a complex and large school system with multiple challenges and constituencies. During his tenure, Baltimore City students have reached their highest outcomes in state exams, across all categories of students, and City Schools posted its best-ever dropout and graduation rates. Previously, Dr. Alonso was Deputy Chancellor and Chief of Staff for Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department

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Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney

“Breakdowns and Trans-Generational Culture” Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director, Institute for Enterprise Ethics, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series Why do so many organizations break down? In recent years, some major corporations have had breakdowns and made significant missteps (e.g., BP, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota). We interviewed Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver, to get his insights into what happened. This is the first in a new series—the Leaders Speak Series—in which we interview leaders about pressing topics. BP made some bold pronouncements about sustainability and corporate responsibility but

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Unhappy at Work? Check Before You Step in It

“The grass always looks greener beyond your cow pies.” -(We made that up.)  Tempted to switch organizations? Bigger responsibilities, title, pay? Before you make the move, find out what the culture really is. Unless, of course, you’re a serial job switcher only interested in how fast you can become a VP. This blog is not for you. Good luck. (You’ll need it.) Culture matters. Culture is simply how people behave in an organization. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote: “…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” According to a recent Booz & Company global study:

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The Legacy of Jim Burke

(Note: Bob and Gregg Vanourek co-authored this blog with Dr. Dan Sweeney, former Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver) Few corporate executives have provided as powerful a role model as James E. Burke, former CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson. He worked at J&J for 40 years and died on September 28, 2012 at the age of 87. We will miss his presence, showing us the way, and encouraging us to be better than we thought we could be. Jim Burke’s leadership produced an extraordinary company. During Burke’s tenure as CEO and Chairman,

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Leadership speaker, Gregg Vanourek, speaks on leading by values.

The Values Imperative

  The power of living and leading in accordance with our values is extraordinary. Values are an essential foundation for our quality of life and leadership. When we take time to discover our core values and have the courage to honor and fight for them, our lives are richer and our contributions deeper. How to do so? Begin by asking probing questions: What are my convictions about what is good and worthy? What do I believe in? What will I fight for in my life and work? Answering these questions helps you clarify your personal values. Without knowing your values,

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Jack & Ben with Triple Crown

Bucket Filler or Bucket Dipper?

“Sprinkle joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets of others with kindness and consideration. A bucket dipper does things that make others feel bad. (The metaphor of bucket fillers/dippers is based on the work of Dr. Donald O. Clifton, later enhanced for schools by Merrill Lundgren, the “bucket man.” The concept is similar

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Whistleblowers–Reframing Their Role

Whistleblowers play an important role in divulging ethical breaches, but we must reframe their role in order to preserve the ethical imperative in organizations. Unethical behavior is rampant nowadays. We see it across the board. We see it in business (e.g., Walmart bribery scandal, LIBOR scandal, Peregrine scandal, and many more); in universities (Harvard, Penn State, and more); in nonprofits (Boy Scouts, Three Cups of Tea, United Way, and more); and in sports. Many governments have passed whistleblowing statutes but usually through a patchwork of laws that sometimes conflict. Even worse, the whistleblower is often viewed as a traitor in

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Culture: The Entrepreneur’s Blind Spot

Startups are thrilling. It’s hard to beat the excitement of launching an innovative new venture. The excitement is palpable, and it leads to a kind of euphoria in the venture’s culture. But too often that initial euphoria descends into culture deflation, like the air leaking out of a tire. First it slows you down. Eventually it brings you to a stop. The magic disappears. We’ve seen it in startups, and it ain’t pretty. But it is avoidable. Though a strong organizational culture is critical in startups, it is a blind spot for most entrepreneurs. Many founders take culture for granted,

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Your Leadership Legacy

What will your legacy be? In the age of Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, and tablets–of endless emails and ceaseless connecting–how rare it is to stop and think about that question. How rare it is to stick to the long game and not get caught up in short-termism. How rare it is to look to the far horizon, instead of the incessant barrage of immediate distractions and concerns. We all hunger for meaning and significance in our lives, but we leave them out of our daily diet. After a while, we starve for them. The quest for legacy can be found in

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Suicide by Quarter–Leading for the Short-Term

Have you ever: Told one of your line managers to “do whatever it takes to make your numbers this quarter”? Pulled sales from next quarter to make this quarter’s numbers? Cut into critical R&D funds to hit Wall Street forecasts? Asked the CFO to lower the reserves for future expenses to help earnings this quarter? Taken an excessive restructuring charge, knowing that you could siphon some of the excess charges from balance sheet accounts into future earnings when you really need them? If so, you are committing suicide by quarter.   Unsustainable and Untenable These all-too-frequent actions are unsustainable. They

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In Memoriam: Stephen R. Covey

One of the great icons of our time, Stephen R. Covey, passed away this week. This giant of an intellect with the soul of a child cannot be replaced. His insights into the nature of people, his wisdom, his writing, his speaking, his work and service, his example, his integrity, and his just-plain common sense helped millions of people around the globe become better people and better leaders. It’s an astonishing legacy. Covey’s call for “principle-centered leadership” was prescient for what our world so sorely needs today. We are confident that his family, colleagues, and others will carry on the

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The End of Leadership?

Barbara Kellerman and Jim O’Toole, two leadership experts we respect, are ticked off about the failures in leadership we witness virtually every day. (See “Mad About Leadership” in Strategy+Business, June 2012). Think of all the leadership-related scandals recently: Recent Leadership Hall of Shame Barclays Bear Stearns BP Countrywide Financial Galleon Group GlaxoSmithKline Goldman Sachs Johnson & Johnson Lehman Brothers MF Global Penn State Walmart Yahoo! It’s a long list—and getting longer with a disturbing frequency. Think also of the problems and mishaps we’ve seen from Wall Street mavens, K Street lobbyists, feckless regulators, subprime companies, credit ratings agencies, and more.

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Choose Your Friends and Colleagues Wisely

Rajat Gupta’s storybook life has taken a dark turn. An orphan from Kolkata, India, Gupta moved to the U.S. to attend Harvard Business School on a scholarship. He ascended to the top (Managing Director) of McKinsey, one of the world’s most prestigious consulting companies, and advised the world’s elite. After retiring, he joined the boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, and American Airlines’ parent company. Soon he may be in prison. A jury found him guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking insider information—boardroom secrets—to his new friend and colleague, Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire hedge fund manager (now

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How Great Leaders Maintain Exceptional Focus

One of the cruel ironies of our time is that with such incredible access to information, many leaders are drowning in data and bogging down in complexity. They drink through a fire hose of reports, analytics, blogs, and tweets. Mobile devices blessedly update and painfully distract. At some point, the choices become debilitating, especially with the clamor for near-instant responses to just about everything. For leaders, it is one of the mega-challenges of our time. This challenge is also a great opportunity. For those up to the task, it can be a powerful source of competitive advantage, one that comes

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Leadership and the Quest for Excellence

Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. “The world is not interested in the storms you encountered,” says Norman Augustine, “but in whether or not you brought the ship in safely.” Perhaps he took his cue from Winston Churchill. When asked about the Allies’ aim in World War II, he replied: “I can answer in one word. It is victory.”   Exemplars of Excellence Exemplars can be found in different domains. We associate excellence in brand management with Procter & Gamble. Among hospitals the standard of excellence is set at places like Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, and

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