Strong leadership did rescue IBM and General Motors. In 1993, Lou Gerstner took over a dying IBM and shook it to its core; he and his team revamped management policies and freed the company from decades of hidebound management practices. Six years later, Rick Wagoner did something similar for General Motors. He brought in fresh talent and gave the newcomers free reign to develop new products. GM's comeback has had its ups and downs but seems on the upswing today. Gerstner was more of a top-down manager; Wagoner is by nature collaborative. He shares the spotlight but, more importantly, he lets decision-makers decide.
Strong leadership does not negate the need for relationships or collaboration; it embraces them. Leaders by themselves achieve very little; the measure of effective leadership lies in the results a leader achieves by inspiring others. In a corporate setting those results come by working with people, either as individuals or as teams.
Relationships are critical to leadership success and must be nurtured. And one way to nurture them is to get in line once in awhile and let others lead. Old Mr. Sam, as LBJ called Rayburn, also knew this. "You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you," he said, "unless you know how to follow, too."
John Baldoni is a leadership communications consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies as well as nonprofits, including the University of Michigan.
He is a frequent keynote and workshop speaker and author of six books on leadership, the most recent being How Great Leaders Get Great Results. Visit his leadership resource website at www.johnbaldoni.com.