HBS: Ruthlessly Realistic: How CEOs Must Overcome Denial

This is an interesting article and interview with Tedlow, the author of “Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face-and What to Do About It.” The author talks about the impact of denial which controls CEO’s minds and actions, though they don’t admit it, on their organizations and companies. He defines denial as “the unwillingness to acknowledge and deal with reality, or “knowing with not knowing” or “seeing but not seeing”. No matter how he defines it, Tedlow argues that the problem is “ubiquitous” in today’s business environment. He discussed cases of denial from the US economy and history such as GM, Ford and A&P.

Does an MBA Make You a Better CEO? – Another perspective

This is an interesting research by Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen and published in HBR on 20th Jan 2010. The insights Ibarra and Hansen provided are pretty much related to the Age factor and Entry to the executiveship. The research had concluded that CEO’s with MBAs are stronger, if they become CEO’s before year 2000 and where younger than 50 yrs old. Amazing, isn’t it? The study also concluded that CEO’s with MBAs were 40% better in performance compared to the other 2000 CEO’s scanned by Ibarra and Hansen. I remembered that around 28% of the best performing CEO’s in HBR list in 2009 had MBA’s. This is of course form reviewing the free HBR copy which showed the meta information for only 50 CEOs!.

Goodnight: The real value of managing people

How could possibly Goodnight be mistaken? or just lucky? running a 13,000 employee company with $2.2 billions in revenue has no room whatsoever for luck. I can not imagine unless that this man is just a superhero, or in more simplistic form, he is a leader. He is not alone and he is not the one. We had hundreds of similar unique and universal successes around the world.

The problem is that why we only get these remarkable experiences from the US, Europe or China. What is it in them our corporate world lack in Middle East! Is it that we have superheros but our media is not doing a good job! (well, they do good job for ranking the top billionaires or most rich Arabs!) or simply we do not reach up to this superstar performance of Goodnight, Steve Jobs, Jeffrey Bezos or Schmidt!

CEOs from Within

During the journey of reading one of the best ever published business books; bestseller of its type; Good To Great by Jim Collins [and subsequently How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins also], I had received Harvard Business Review report on the “The 100 Best-Performing CEO’s in the World”. Well, not so much amazing! isn’t it! Actually it does surprise me to unveil a wonderful conincidence between the list and Collins’ findings.

It’s the CEO’s from within or what Collins referred to as ‘Inside CEO’, i.e. CEOs that climbed the helm of their organizations from within; they were either VP’s, senior executives or middle managers; invested quite big portion of their lives in the same organization. Collins concluded in his research in the ‘Good To Great’ that:

“Ten of eleven good-to-great CEOs came from inside the company, whereas the comparison companies tried outside CEOs six times more often”. Amazingly is the negative correlation Collins concluded: “Larger-than-life, celebrity leaders who ride in from the outside are negatively correlated with taking a company from good to great”!!

From the HBR list [the free preview], I could notice that at least 80% of those successful, best performing CEO’s did actually came from within, from the inside. They generated over three trillions of market capital change over their tenure as CEOs; i.e. around 10 years; assuming HBR analysis period from 1997 to 2007.

In Collins Good to Great, he contrasted over 26 companies’ performance over 15 years to understand how a great company can progress towards greatness. He proposed a simple module of six fundamentals articulated about disciplined people, thought and action:

Level 5 Leadership
First Who… Then What
Confront the Brutal Facts
The Hedgehog Concept
A Culture of Descipline
Technology Accelerators
Though my intention is not to blog about Collins Good to Great outcomes, nevertheless, it is inevitable to see outcoming results from reputable organizations as HBR to exhibit findings that support Collins research. This undoubtedly emphasizes on the values and implicit meanings the six fundamentals intrinsically have to promote sustainable performance and does encourage every single CEO to ask the following:

Why my name does not show there! what’s missing?

… engaging in a disciplined thought with disciplined people will trigger disciplined actions.


Mouaz Aref Al-Zayyat