Adam Bryant is Managing Director at Merryck & Co, as well as Senior Advisor to the Reuben Mark Initiative for Organizational Character and Leadership at Columbia University. He is the former “Corner Office” columnist for the New York Times. His recent book, The CEO Test: Master the Challenges That Make Or Break All Leaders, is a practical playbook for executives of all levels, sharing the seven key reasons why leaders succeed or fail in their roles. He joins Marcel Schwantes today to discuss his book and how leaders can apply its principles in the workplace.
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- Adam says that the Corner Office came from his interest in CEOs as humans. “What I realized [from years of interviewing CEOs] is that [CEOs] in the business press are always interviewed in the same way, as strategists” he shares. “The more time I spent with them, the more I became intrigued with them as people.” [4:40]
- If leaders want to build a good culture, they need to start from the ground up. Company values should be addressed, discussed, and implemented at every level. People become cynical if company behavior contradicts its stated values, and cynicism can be cancerous to an organization, Adam explains. [12:13]
- “You cannot tolerate the high-performing jerk.” Regardless of someone’s extreme competence in their job, they cannot be made an exception to the values of an organization. “If you don’t let them go [you allow] the cynicism to creep in.” [14:09]
- Often leaders overlook the fact that they are responsible for setting the tone and rules when a team is dysfunctional. Leaders must be intentional about stating their role and the roles in a team, as well as the expected behavior, Adam states. This eliminates the creation of silos, Marcel adds, which causes competition rather than collaboration. [19:20]
- “The higher up you go in the [organizational] hierarchy, the less accountability you receive,” Marcel cites. “The reason is obviously that you’re listening to less and less people the higher you go. Those of us that are just command and control [oriented] are not going to want to listen to many different perspectives.” [23:47]
- Adam lists the different aspects of leadership. Leadership is about humility, but you also have to be confident; leadership is about being compassionate, but you need to hold people accountable; leadership is about patience, but it also involves urgency. [27:02]
- “I think American society is a pendulum that swings back and forth… I’m hoping [the pendulum] can get back to us seeing each other as human beings,” Adam shares. “Listening… is a lost art in our society… not only is it a superpower for leaders, but I think it sets you apart in your career.” [33:06]
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