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The Leadership Moment

Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All

By Michael Useem
10-minute read
Audio available
The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem

In The Leadership Moment (1999) we accompany leaders from a range of different fields on their incredible journeys, and learn, by witnessing their responses to critical challenges, some of the central principles of great leadership. From seeking out new opportunities to winning the trust of your team, these blinks are your guide to leading well in the trickiest of times.

  • Leaders of businesses, small teams and large organizations
  • Individuals interested in the aspects of good leadership today
  • Readers fascinated by real-life inspirational tales

Michael Useem is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as the Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management. Renowned for his expertise in the theory of leadership, Useem is also the author of The Leader’s Checklist and The Go Point: When It’s Time to Decide.

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The Leadership Moment

Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All

By Michael Useem
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem
Synopsis

In The Leadership Moment (1999) we accompany leaders from a range of different fields on their incredible journeys, and learn, by witnessing their responses to critical challenges, some of the central principles of great leadership. From seeking out new opportunities to winning the trust of your team, these blinks are your guide to leading well in the trickiest of times.

Key idea 1 of 6

Seek out new challenges to grow your leadership skills.

Are you always on the lookout for new challenges? That’s a good thing. Taking on new responsibilities is usually stressful, and sometimes nightmarish! But it’s a surefire way to gain new skills and experience, which, in turn, prepares you for even more challenges.

For Clifton Wharton, the former US Deputy Secretary of State, challenging assignments were an opportunity to sharpen his skills and enrich his practical knowledge. A development economist, Wharton faced his first landmark challenge when he was elected president of Michigan State University.

In the eight years Wharton spent there, he successfully led and administered the university in spite of its huge campus and vastly complicated systems. When invited to head the State University of New York, Wharton accepted.

The State University of New York had an administration about ten times larger than that of Michigan State, and control was very centralized. But through his experiences at Michigan State and as a board member of large corporations, including Ford Motor Co., Wharton knew that even the largest, most resistant enterprises could be restructured. Again, Wharton was able to leverage lessons learned in previous challenges to solve another and eventually reshaped and improved New York State.

These experiences prepared Wharton for yet another huge challenge as he accepted a job offer from the Teachers Insurance and Annuities Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), the biggest non-government retirement provider for college and university professors.

With products ranging from retirement planning to life insurance, the TIAA-CREF had a lot on its plate. Clients of the TIAA-CREF were losing patience with their restricted investment options and lack of control over their own retirement funds. When the organization offered Wharton a position, they were in dire need of a solution for their inflexible structure.

In 1987, Wharton took office and began modernizing the state system. He created three top management teams to steer the enterprise while introducing greater autonomy and accountability in customer service. Clients were given access to diverse investment options, greater flexibility in transferring their funds and improved counseling services.

You, too, can immerse yourself in your current role and all the learning opportunities it offers. These will give you the tools to succeed in positions of greater responsibility later on.

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