<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1509222356040859&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Complete this form to request your access to the platform.

Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

Read More
All Posts

Lessons that Define the Framework of Exemplary Leadership

In the predawn hours of June 17, 2017, a U.S. warship cruising through Japanese waters collided with a heavily laden merchant vessel. Despite the valiant efforts of the USS Fitzgerald’s crew, seven sailors perished in the calamity. Navy investigators continue to explore every facet of that day’s events to determine how a destroyer and a freighter struck each other in open sea. There will follow serious questions about the catalyst, be it mechanical or human in nature. Regardless of what the researchers discover, the wreck of the USS Fitzgerald seems almost symbolic -- a parable about leadership, teamwork, transparency and accountability. I believe the lessons we learn from the Navy’s handling of the situation will provide an exemplary framework for preparing tomorrow’s leaders to succeed -- and to help them avoid the mistakes of their predecessors.

Leading Challenges in Leadership

Whether the discussion involves business operations or geopolitics, the emerging theme of 2017 is one of tumult in the ranks. Newsworthy shakeups have rattled the upper echelons of powerful corporations and governments. The outcomes of Brexit, the fraught election battle in France and the contentious presidency of Donald Trump have shone a bright light on leadership issues. The recent ouster of Uber’s top executives have exposed similar struggles in business. Yet the issues at heart rarely differ -- autocratic oversight, lack of transparency, hostile culture, brand and reputation challenges, and inflexibility.

Leadership directly affects engagement. Right now, the statistics aren’t stellar. One eye-opening revelation of worker dissatisfaction came with Gallup’s landmark State of the American Workplace report. In a survey of more than 150,000 professionals, researchers discovered that barely 30 percent felt engaged in their roles. These stark figures don’t merely portray a problem with culture, they also present concerns about profitability. This disengaged career landscape costs the U.S economy $550 billion a year in lost productivity.

Based on the findings in Edelman’s Trust Barometer study -- a sweeping global survey of employee opinions toward management -- leadership troubles emerged as the primary obstacle. The report discovered that 82 percent of workers did not trust their bosses. Of those people, over half left their positions because of their managers. Destructive leadership traits also have real-world economic implications. Research from Applied Psychology show that failed management results in losses of between $1 million and $2.7 million.

In his informative and educational piece for Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic observes that “although the scientific study of leadership is well established, its key discoveries are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders.”

Who rises to the apex of exemplary leadership? This decades-old question endures as a hot topic of debate among businesses. The answers vary. Many people cite qualities such as work ethic, dedication, seniority, education, mastery of skills, intense knowledge of the company or industry, and authority. However, the most effective leaders that emerge, according to scientific meta-analysis in this area, are individuals who are well adjusted, sociable, ambitious and curious.

As Chamorro-Premuzic notes, “53% of the variability in leadership emergence is explained by these personality factors.” The selection of poor leaders frequently occurs when displays of confidence are misinterpreted as competence.

The Leader is the Brand

“Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, co-founder of one of the most influential technology companies of its generation, resigned on Tuesday under pressure from investors after a string of setbacks,” announced Reuters on June 21. Kalanick’s seemingly hasty departure sent shockwaves rippling through Silicon Valley. “Ultimately, it was some of Uber’s main investors who forced Kalanick out, according to a source familiar with the matter,” the news agency added.

Kalanick’s brash demeanor and pugnacity defined Uber’s business style, yet they also contributed to the creation of a toxic business culture plagued by scandals. Those complications worsened when the company’s leaders failed to acknowledge the problems and genuinely investigate or resolve them. They instead attempted to divert attention and come up with excuses. So when unhappy employees unearthed a culture of bullyism and discrimination, the impact on public opinion was more profound.

  • In February 2017, Susan Fowler published the viral blog post, “Reflecting on one very strange year at Uber,” which exposed an environment of sexism running rampant through the organization.
  • That same month, Uber driver Fawzi Kamel released to Bloomberg a dashboard video recording of Kalanick berating and verbally abusing him during a ride.
  • Also during that time, over 200,000 users deleted their Uber apps in protest of the company’s perceived attempts to break an airport taxi strike that had been orchestrated to oppose President Trump’s controversial Muslim travel ban.

As Entrepreneur magazine stated: “Kalanick didn’t have public opinion on his side, which augmented his downfall. Similarly, Safr, the upstart Boston ride-hailing app catering to women, has been dealing with its own dissolution since its CEO was recently arrested on fraud charges.”

“Alternately, your CEO’s good name can carry your organization,” the article emphasized. “Take Elon Musk, who holds multiple CEO titles in divergent industries and is known for revolutionary concepts. His name and history of innovation in and of themselves hold value -- and have been enough to deem him successful whether his companies were or not.”

The Top Traits of Admired Leaders

Since 2014, Ben Dorer has served as CEO of The Clorox Company, an $18.02 billion consumer products organization. He was named Glassdoor’s top selection in its 2017 Highest-Rated CEOs report, which relies solely on the input of a company’s employees. Boasting a 99-percent approval rating from his talent, Dorer’s approach to management provides keen insight into some universal qualities of exemplary leadership.

  • Management concentrates on developing its talent at the entry level.
  • The organization’s leaders are engaged and promote a growth culture, while maintaining unshakable values about integrity, teamwork and participation.
  • Senior management focuses on excellence in communication across all levels of the enterprise, sharing vision, strategy, direction and goals. The culture enforces transparency and accountability.
  • Leadership includes the perspectives of talent in decisions about strategy, making them participants in the progress of the company.
  • Senior leaders embrace an environment conducive to learning, ongoing skills development, team orientation and mentorship.

All of that said, the real test of a leadership team’s mettle often comes down to the manner in which they respond to crises, fumbles or missteps. In many ways today, whether in business or politics, the handling of a fraught situation illuminates the strengths or weaknesses of leaders. And that’s why the Navy’s response to the USS Fitzgerald collision epitomizes exceptional leadership values.

In his compelling editorial for CNN, former Rear Admiral John Kirby praises the heroism and teamwork of the destroyer’s crew during their brutal, 16-hour fight to save lives and bring the crippled vessel back to port. He then outlines the process the Navy’s leaders will follow to resolve the incident. Their methodical, responsible and visible actions represent the best practices that leaders of any kind would do well to adopt and endorse.

  • ”The Navy is going to find out exactly what happened,” Kirby writes. “The investigation has already begun. It will be thorough. It will be clear. It will be definitive.”
  • Leaders will examine every factor that could have influenced the outcome, including personnel decisions, equipment, recorded data and others. All of the findings will be documented comprehensively.
  • The information collected will be used to reconstruct the event timeline to determine where lapses in judgment, performance and direct supervision occurred.
  • The discoveries will be made public. “Reporters won't have to submit Freedom of Information Act requests or rely on leakers to find out what investigators discover,” Kirby notes. “The Navy will tell them. They’ll probably even hold a news conference.”
  • Leaders will incorporate the lessons learned from the tragedy into preventative maintenance and continuous improvement plans.
  • The Navy will not shirk from holding itself accountable.

This approach embodies the paragon of exemplary leadership -- and a successful enterprise. The commanders of the USS Fitzgerald, who in this scenario represent the managers of a workforce, will almost certainly lose their jobs. Others, who made the right decisions, could be decorated or promoted. The point is that the disaster will not hobble the Navy. It’s a tragic failure, yet the Navy’s leadership can retain and strengthen the integrity of the organization through its handling of the crisis.

In a business context, the same attributes show the differences between unsustainable leadership blunders and strong commanders like Elon Musk.

On September 1, SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad, destroying the engines and the payload -- an Amos-6 communications satellite. This disaster marks the second loss of a Falcon 9 in the past 14 months. NASA officials, in response, shelved a tentative contract for manned flights to the International Space Station, which Musk handled stoically.

However, Musk didn’t make excuses for the problem; he didn’t shift blame, deny accountability, cover up the incident or ignore investigating the cause. He followed, quite closely, the same best practices exhibited by the Navy -- and all strong leaders.

  • SpaceX leadership immediately began examining “all plausible causes,” which were “being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated.”
  • The company’s Accident Investigation Team gathered and analyzed 3,000 channels of recorded data to assess every factor that could have contributed to the explosion. The team also reviewed video and audio recordings of the event to leave no stone unturned.
  • Musk immediately contacted the media to explain the initial situation and the steps SpaceX would undertake to prevent future problems.
  • Musk followed up soon after with a press conference after the cause of the catastrophe, making sure that the public remained informed about the company’s decisions, direction and future plans.
  • Although customers and investors were eager for Musk to restart the programs, he postponed all launches until he was confident the resolution had been reached.
  • Musk and SpaceX were not afraid to be held to account.

Beyond that, Musk reiterated his vision for continuing the mission of SpaceX, despite the failure. Speaking before the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara on September 25, Musk revealed his plans for a manned mission to Mars, the first phase of his grander aims for colonization. His vision is bold, inspiring, imaginative and firmly rooted in America’s pioneering spirit of discovery. Like the Navy, his dedication to the integrity of his organization, his talent and his consumers paints a vivid portrait of the leadership practices America needs and deserves.

Bret Bass
Bret Bass
Vice President of Special Operations
Post a comment

Related Posts

Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individ...
Crowdstaffing Mar 10, 2021 9:30:00 AM

How is COVID-19 Shifting the Hiring Trend from Local to Globally Distributed?

Due to the accelerating effects of COVID-19, Hiring Marketplaces are uniquely positioned to support new m...
Crowdstaffing Feb 17, 2021 2:13:34 PM

How Hiring Marketplaces Improve Cost Transparency

Benefit from a hiring marketplace’s optimal pricing strategy where you can adjust rates at each requisiti...
Crowdstaffing Jan 21, 2021 8:29:00 AM