If I could build the “perfect” leader, I would…

…use a roadmap culled from the attributes and qualities of proven leaders. Or at least I think I would.

I’m fascinated with replication – specifically, the possibility of taking the “good” from someone (attributes, qualities, talents, skills) and replicating (or transferring) those skills to others. This mindset is at the heart of competency modeling, skill-gap measurement, and any other host of talent management strategies.

Last year, during the height of the 2010 election cycle, I read an interesting article in Newsweek about the proliferation on business leaders who have chosen to try their hand at politics. The assumption is (was?) that business leaders honed their skills in the boardroom, and the government could use a dose of their acumen to right all manner of wrongs:

America, Inc.

To hear Jon Corzine tell it, Meg Whitman is either deceiving us or deceiving herself. Like Whitman, the former eBay CEO who’s vying for California’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, Corzine is one of the few people in America who has tried to make the leap from running a business (in his case, Goldman Sachs) to running a government (the state of New Jersey). He can only scoff when he hears Whitman arguing that deficit-ridden California desperately needs her corporate skills. Corzine also thought “the managerial skill set would be helpful,” he tells NEWSWEEK. But after four grueling years as a Democratic governor—ending in a humiliating defeat by an uninspiring Republican opponent—Corzine no longer believes that being a CEO prepares anyone for the day-to-day grind of governing.

Click the title to read the article in its entirety (it’s a very interesting article, even 13 months later), but note Corzine’s bottom-line summation:

“The idea that you’re accountable to a bottom line and to a payroll in managing a business—it gives voters the confidence that you have the right skills [to govern]. But it’s 20,000 people versus 9 million. I don’t think candidates get the scale and scope of what governing is. You don’t have the flexibility you imagined. There’s no exact translation.”

Corzine’s summation encapsulated both the romance and peril of assuming that skills learned and honed in the corporate arena are easily transferred to municipal and federal government. This “leadership transfer assumption” is not limited to the corporate-to-government argument – it’s an assumption that cripples leaders across all industries. Just because you were “successful” in one lane, it does not necessarily insure your success in another lane.

Therein lies the need for systematic research – processes that explicitly link desirable competencies with desired outcomes.

This article is the inaugural post of this blog, so I won’t jump head-first into the rabbit hole today…but you get a glimpse of how the gears of my mind are turning.

Stay tuned for more…


Contribute to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s