Walter, You’re Right and I Raise You One

My colleague Walter Kirchberger wrote a very compelling blog on the impact of competent leadership for an organization and cited one of the two premiere college football teams in the state of Michigan in his comments.  His commingling of sports and business when speaking of leadership was not unique.  In many business management books, pages are borrowed from sports and it is not uncommon to find people in senior positions at organizations who once held similar roles on sports teams.

Walter pointed out that good leadership is most easily recognized following a period of poor leadership for an organization.  In the present case, he cites the dramatic impact of the University of Michigan’s new, experienced and successful head coach, Jim Harbaugh, following what can frankly be characterized as disastrous leadership by the immediate prior occupants of that job.  He could have just as easily mentioned Mark Dantonio, the highly respected and quite successful head coach of the Michigan State Spartans who also led that schools football team out of a period of inconsistency and mediocrity to perpetual excellence.

The common element for both Dantonio and Harbaugh, as well as for a host of other effective leaders, was quality leadership experience.  Both Dantonio and Harbaugh made their journeys through a series of increasingly higher profile, and greater responsibility, jobs and performed with competence at each level.  Hence, when the time came for them to hit the big stage, they were ready.  Simply put, there is no substitute for good leadership experience.

I deal with many CEO’s of companies, and I see it in action on a regular basis as we engage in discussions of their operations.  It becomes quite clear to me why certain of these individuals enjoy success.  I have also witnessed failure, and in like vein, the failures are usually quite apparent and due to poor leadership.

This discussion applies to politics as well. 

All comments or questions welcomed.

Bob Bilkie, CFA®