Thursday, July 17, 2008

High-commitment, High-performance leadership

The Uncompromising Leader. By: Eisenstat, Russell A., Beer, Michael, Foote, Nathaniel, Fredberg, Tobias, Norrgren, Flemming, Harvard Business Review, 00178012, Jul-Aug2008, Vol. 86, Issue 7/8

Leaders of high-commitment, high-performance organizations refuse to choose between people and profits

CEOs who take the commitment of their employees for granted risk destroying the social fabric of their organizations: While they move in one direction, the rest of the organization stays stuck or, worse, heads the opposite way.

HCHP leaders, however -- through intense, focused, and dogged day-to-day involvement with their people and operations -- manage to hold the center. They almost personally create the link between the people who do the work and the performance they must deliver.

The CEOs we studied did so by combining four strategies.

First, they earned the trust of their organizations through their openness to the unvarnished truth.

Second, they were deeply engaged with their people, and their exchanges were direct and personal; employees in the companies we studied had a particularly close connection with the CEO and were seldom surprised to meet him or her.

Third, having earned legitimacy and trust, these CEOs were able to mobilize their people around a focused agenda.

Finally, while they were all strong individuals, these senior leaders realized that they could succeed only as part of a committed leadership team, and they devoted considerable efforts to building their firm's collective leadership capabilities.

Russell A. Eisenstat ( is a former faculty member at Harvard Business School in Boston. Michael Beer ( is a professor of business administration emeritus at Harvard Business School and chairman of the TruePoint Center for High Commitment and High Performance. Nathaniel Foote ( is a former partner with McKinsey & Company. Tobias Fredberg ( and Flemming Norrgren ( are on the faculty of the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Eisenstat, Foote, Fredberg, and Norrgren are all fellows of the TruePoint Center as well as consultants at TruePoint Partners, whose mission is to help leaders build high-commitment, high-performance institutions.

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