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Political Animals

January 3, 2021
Leadership Advisory

Alan C. Greenberg describes the culture of Bear Stearns as one of mutual loyalty, to each other and the firm, in The Rise And Fall of Bear Stearns. And yet, the demise of the firm can be largely attributed to a leader, one who did not share those values, rising to the highest levels of leadership.  Greenberg, reflecting on this leader, his successor, in the early years writes, “He constantly pushed for advancement, but I felt that signified a welcome competitiveness…It escaped no one that he was a political animal, but it took a long time before that characteristic seemed to me to be a liablity”.

My teacher, Monty Sholund, said, “He who seeks to be the leader disqualifies himself.”

It is easy to be impressed by and attracted to charismatic, competitive, confident producers.  Who doesn’t want this type of winner in their organization.  But, the Bear Stearns story demonstrates that if such people are not held accountable to the firms values and are allowed to promote themselves over the interests of the firm, it won’t be easy to recover from the losses.  For Bear Stearns recovery was not possible.

When it comes to selecting leadership, you cannot be too deliberate or discerning.  Give yourself time, get information from those who know the nominees and use proven selection processes and tools.  It’s easy to put people in leadership roles, but it’s hard to remove them. Do the easy part well and you may avoid having to do the hard stuff.

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