Ogilby & Mather's Chairman Shelly Lazarus recently joined UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian for a Dean's Distinguished Speaker series appearance. In the appearance, she spoke on a number of different qualities of great leaders. In the clip above, Lazarus talks about settling on a particular strategy, then sticking to it with conviction.
"Great leaders know they must pick a strategy and insist that everyone follow it. Which stratefy you follow is far less important than following it with complete conviction and consistency.
"This was a new insight for me. I learned it from Lou Gerstner, who dragged IBM from the precipice of extinction as their CEO in the 90s. But I first met Lou when he was at American Express. One night after a long day spent launching a cause-related marketing campaign ... and, yes, American Express did invent cause-related marekting. A lot of people take credit for it, but it was American Express, I was there ... We were in yet another ballroom. This time in Miami. It was about ten o'clock at night and I was still searching for truth. I thought there was a right answer.
"How many think there is a right strategy? That you just have to keep looking at it, dissecting it, analyzing it and eventually you'll find the right strategy. Well, here was Lou, the brilliant strategist, who used to be the president of McKinsey. He's the strategy king.
"He said in this late night conversation, 'You can always make the case for two or three different strategies. There are some,' he said, 'that are just wrong. Those are easy to eliminate. But there are usually two or three that are valid. The important thing is to pick one with some dispatch and follow it vigorously. Which one you pick is much less important than consistency in carrying it out. You must take responsibility for deciding direction and then insist that everyone stick to it.' But please notice that I said 'insist.' This is not a polite suggestion from the leader. This is a 'we will in fact adhere to the strategy, conviction, strength, don't blink.'
"To quote David Maister, a former professor at Harvard Business School, 'It's not what you say as a leader that's important. It's what you are willing to enforce.' There's an interesting idea. It''s not what you say, it's what you're willing to enforce. A great leader knows how to use this and, believe me, everyone in an organization knows what the leader is going to enforce. They know what the fireable offenses are.
"So you better be sure that you are actually aligning what people think about what's important with what's actually important."
To see the entire Shelly Lazarus appearance in the Dean's Distinguished Speaker series, click here.