Leading Through Volatility

As I write this on April 5, 2012, the Dow is above 13,000 and all indications point to signs of recovery. Notice the disclaimer, ‘As I write this.’ If we have learned nothing else in the past four years, let us remember that a stable, predictable economy may be a thing of the past. We cautiously celebrate signs of recovery while we simultaneously prepare for more change.

Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat
by Linda Henman


In today’s fast-paced, unprecedented, and unpredictable economy, many executives simply don’t know what to do. Conventional methods-which many never entirely understood in the first place-often don’t work during economic upheaval. Executives, especially CEOs, need something better. They need a guide that identifies the roadblocks and points out the landmines. In her more than 30 years of working with hundreds of executives, Dr. Linda Henman has observed the critical elements of success, both for the new leader and the one who aspires to the next level of success. In Landing in the Executive Chair, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the pitfalls and identify a clear plan for personal and organizational stress.
  • Leverage the first months in a new executive position- that time of transition that promises opportunity and challenge, but also brings a period of great vulnerability.
  • Create a competitive advantage, set the right tone, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your doors, and establish credibility-all while navigating unfamiliar and turbulent waters.

As organizations expand and grow, the skills that led to success often won’t sustain further development in a more complex, high-stakes environment. Present and future executives need more. They need Landing in the Executive Chair.

The continuing economic challenges – both domestic and international – require practical approaches for maintaining a high level of employee commitment and performance. But these challenges demand something else – a new approach to leadership – the kind of leadership that puts the shoulder of good judgment up against the door of immediate rewards and keeps pushing until it shoves it wide open for the possibilities of long-range, future gains. During difficult, changing times, conventional wisdom proves neither conventional nor wise. We need something new, something that will equip us to face future challenges. The F2 Leadership Model does just that.

The F2 Leadership Model explains the behaviors – not skills, talents, attitudes, or preferences – executives need to display to be effective. F2 leaders have a balanced concern for task accomplishment and people issues. They are firm but fair leaders whom others trust, leaders who commit themselves to both relationship behavior and task accomplishment.

The model sets tension between opposing forces – firmness and fairness – to provide understanding and direction. In other words, it challenges us to ask ourselves how to have both a clear task orientation and an appreciation for the people who achieve the results.

This model is truly more follower-driven than leader-driven. It keeps the leader’s focus on those who count – the people in the organization who will define success. It helps leaders figure out whether they are losing balance, tending to act like Genghis Khan or Mr. Rogers.

The four-quadrant model is both prescriptive and descriptive. It allows leaders to understand their own behavior relative to their direct reports, but by its nature, it implies a preferred way of behaving. In other words, the model explains what leaders should do to be effective instead of merely describing what they tend to do or prefer to do. It explores two key dimensions of leadership: relationship behaviors, like fairness, and task behaviors, like firmness.

F2 Model - StrategyDrivenWhen leaders lose the balance between fairness and firmness, they lose their effectiveness and compromise that of their direct reports. The model helps them analyze what they’re doing and then make choices to move toward F2 behavior. Keep in mind, the model addresses behavior and represents an ideal, so no person fits into one quadrant all the time. Leaders who want to be more effective strive for F2 behavior, but they occasionally drift into one of the other quadrants. When this happens, problems occur, but awareness offers the first step toward remedy.

When I ask people what they think it takes to be a great leader, their first response is usually, ‘vision’. Without question, effective leadership requires a strategic focus, but remember, people in mental institutions have visions, too. Seeing into the future is not enough; successful leadership in the new economy requires more. These leaders understand they must lead better than their competitors, and they need to inspire loyalty through firm but fair leadership. Even though their personalities and management styles may differ, executives who make it to the top and stay there, share some common traits: they have a sense of proportion in their leadership styles and lives; they possess a high degree of self-awareness and self-regulation; and they maintain a long-term focus for themselves and those who depend on them.

About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.

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