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Posted: February 14, 2011

The fourth leadership fundamental

Without the right captain and crew, the ship can sink

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's note: Here is another valuable excerpt from the new success book by national business consultant Laurence B. Valant and partner Gayle W. Hustad, "Lead and Manage! The definitive guide for getting the results you want."

Leadership Fundamental #4 - Selecting appropriate management

Once the decision had been made that the supreme commander for Overlord would be an American, Churchill urged FDR to fill the position quickly. Newspapers hostile to Roosevelt and political foes urged Roosevelt to choose George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff for the Army and Roosevelt's staunchly loyal chief military adviser, to lead the invasion of Europe. Most, including Churchill, assumed Marshall would become Roosevelt's choice. The following excerpt from Michael Korda's biography, Ike, An American Hero, explains Roosevelt's rationale (requirements) for selecting Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander.

The Allies had generals with, perhaps, a sharper strategic and political vision than Ike - Marshall and Brooke, for example - though he would quickly catch up with them, for he was a fast learner. There were also generals who were more experienced at "fighting a battle," like Patton, Montgomery and Alexander, although in that respect too, Ike was learning on the job. But there was nobody who had anything like Ike's record of leading an alliance - always the most difficult feat in warfare - or of commanding military operations on a huge, daring and unprecedented scale.

What is more, Ike somehow inspired people: civilians and ordinary soldiers of both nations, even cynical political figures and the always troublesome French. Something about his big grin; his long-limbed, loose American way of walking (the Kansas farm boy grown to a man); his easy familiar way of speaking to everybody from King George VI down to privates in both armies; his lack of pretension; his evident sincerity; and his willingness to accept unimaginably heavy responsibility made people like Ike.

They were willing to be led by him. They were willing to have him command their sons and husbands in battle. They trusted him. They were willing to die for him. It is hard to imagine Alan Brooke or George Marshall winning people's confidence, affection, and trust the way Ike did, apparently without effort or design, and it was typically astute of that supreme master of politics, Franklin Roosevelt, to see that quality in Ike at once, and to recognize however much he admired Marshall, what a formidable weapon it was. And why not? It was one he and Ike shared.

At no time in history was it more important to select the right leader - and the accomplishment of the Allied objective proves that Roosevelt got it right. In line with his personal vision, Roosevelt chose Dwight David Eisenhower, a leader who, without yielding to ego or politics, was utterly focused on executing to strategy: defeat Germany and accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

A CEO must have an approach to selecting leaders and managers, a process that ensures right choices are made. The cost of erring in this crucial step is terribly high. Defined as the value of the next best alternative lost as the result of making a decision, the opportunity cost resulting from having the wrong people in key positions for extended periods is high and always underestimated.

While there are of course costs of recruitment which are out-of-pocket, the real cost is in the opportunities lost when an incorrect choice occupies a crucial position for six to 12 months before their weakness is discovered and replacement can begin. Additionally, the cost of losing competent staff and production glitches due to the erosion of confidence in leadership must also be figured. Incompetent management drives good people away.

Assuring that the right choice is made when leadership and management positions are filled is difficult; yet the following steps will lead to right selection the majority of the time.

Guidelines for staffing:

• Specify job requirements accurately by clarifying roles, responsibilities and job specs
• Identify key success deliverables for each of the next five years
• Require demonstrated successful experience in key areas of competence
• Choose those with whom you have worked or allow only one degree of separation in the selection process by relying on someone you know and trust to recommend a candidate
• Use 360-degree reference checks. Talk not just to your candidate's supervisors and superiors, but also to their peers and subordinates from the previous five to seven years
• When possible, staff from within your company. Select those who have held leadership and management positions and whose results you know quantitatively
Management selection is by far the most overlooked and most often failed component of long-term success. The inability to select competent business unit and functional managers haunts

leaders and is the major contributor in a failure to execute. Manager selection is perhaps the most important task the leader performs. Even if a leader implements all the other leadership fundamentals correctly - stating a clear vision, defining an overarching strategy, outlining a strong organization structure - and then fails in management selection, all will have been in vain. Successful execution requires competent leaders and managers. Effectiveness in the role of the CEO is absolutely measured by the ability to select leaders and managers well.
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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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