A Wharton professor discusses the key role of resilience in leadership.
Michael Useem is a professor at the Wharton School and author, most recently, of The Leader's Checklist. He spoke with reporter Adam Bluestein.
What is the single most important quality a leader needs to possess? With unpredictable markets, shorter time cycles, and an increasingly complex business environment, I would say resilience, the ability to come back from crisis.
How can leaders make their organizations more resilient? Leadership is a team sport. You need to build leadership through the ranks, by empowering people to independently make good decisions. You can't do that if you don't make clear what your vision is.
Military history offers some good examples: During the Normandy invasion, the German local commanding officers were given little discretion by German central command. As a result, they responded inflexibly to what the circumstance required, based on the false premise that the Big General can make the big decisions for the frontline. In business, you can look to the famous Tylenol recall by Johnson & Johnson.
It wasn't just the CEO but people all up and down the ranks who independently made good decisions that led the company to take everything off the shelves nationally.