INSTANT MBA: Be Adaptable And Flexible, Not Arrogant And Complacent

Sydney Finkelstein

Photo: Dartmouth / Mark Washburn

Today’s advice comes from Sydney Finkelstein, author of “Why Smart Executives Fail and Think Again Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions,” via his interview with Lajwanti D’Souza of PaGaLGuY:

“Leaders are people. And people sometimes do things they should not do. Sometimes, we hide our heads in the sand so as not to hear. Sometimes we allow our personal biases to influence the decisions we make. Sometimes we ignore the feedback, we do not want to change, underestimate the real difficulties, and we create a reality on our own actions, without listening to the customers. And all these very personal weaknesses, projected on top of organisations lead to failure.” 

According to Finkelstein, CEOs are on the track to failure when they allow arrogance and complacency to take over. A great CEO would not ignore feedback, but rather accept it and learn from the constructive criticism and use it to make themselves a better leader and to shape their product, services and company going forward. 

“And yes, mistakes will happen, but the hallmark of the best CEOs is not whether they never make a mistake (not possible), but how they react to it. Do they acknowledge the problem in strategy, or product, or technology, and act aggressively to fix that problem, or do they ignore it? The best CEOs are adaptable and flexible, always focused on getting things as right as they can. They are not focused on the past, and they actively learn from their mistakes.”

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