Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer Managing for

306 Pages · 2009 · 1.51 MB · English

  • Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer Managing for

    Why Great Leaders Don’t

    Take Yes for an Answer:

    Managing for Conflict

    and Consensus

    Michael A. Roberto

    PEARSON EDUCATION, INC. Praise for Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes

    for an Answer

    “Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answeraddresses a perennial and per-

    nicious thorn in the leader’s side—the yes-men in every organization. (And if you

    think your company is without them, you really need this book!) Leaders at all lev-

    els can use Mike Roberto’s advice, to make better decisions and align their teams

    for results.”


    —Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager

    andCustomer Mania

    “Deciding how to decide: a powerful idea that all leaders should understand and

    put into practice. In doing so, they can become adept at stimulating candid

    dialogues, testing their company’s core assumptions, and achieving alignment.

    Roberto’s ideas have already begun to make a profound difference in the effec-

    tiveness of our management meetings. Our clients around the world would do

    well to adopt Roberto’s straightforward recommendations.”

    —Ed Boswell, president and CEO, The Forum Corporation

    “Too often leaders mistake silence for agreement. Roberto offers concrete advice

    on how to beat this trap. A must-read for leaders at all levels.”

    —Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Stanford W. Ascherman M.D.

    Professor, Stanford University and co-director,

    Stanford Technology Ventures Program

    “In his book Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Michael Roberto

    provides a unique and very enlightening look into the process of decision making.

    His thesis around ‘critical consensus building’ is worthwhile reading for any man-

    ager or entrepreneur that strives to be the most effective leader they can be.”

    —Jonathan Kraft, vice chairman, New England Patriots

    “Unasked questions and undermined decisions are the two main reasons for

    corporate failure. To avoid these dangerous wrong turns, every executive

    should study Professor Roberto’s clear road maps for making and implementing


    —Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., chairman of the board,

    International Steel Group

    “Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answerrises far and above the other

    books on encouraging openness and managing conflict. Instead of offering empty

    platitudes, Michael Roberto has delivered a thoughtful and well-researched book

    with clear, specific actions to make the lessons work in the real world. Anyone

    who supports the clear exchange of ideas can and should benefit from this excel-

    lent and thoroughly enjoyable book.”

    —Dr. David Sirota, chairman emeritus of Sirota Survey Intelligence and

    author of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies

    Profit by Giving Workers What They Want “This is a book that should be on every manager’s desk. Roberto writes in clear,

    easy-to-read language about why managing conflict and decision making in an

    explicit manner is so important to organizational success. He also gives practical

    examples of how to do it. The chapter on ‘deciding how to decide’ alone is worth

    the price of the book.”

    —Sue Annis Hammond, author of The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry

    and consultant, HRD Solutions

    “One of the best compliments an author can get is for someone to begin reading

    a book and not put it down until it is finished. This was my experience with

    Roberto’s great tome on leadership. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter

    are classic. Many of the examples helped me understand some of my best leader-

    ship decisions and also a few of my worst in running the specialized investment

    banking firm I have headed for the past 31 years. There are few really good books

    on leadership, at least few that I have read. Roberto’s is the best.”

    —Matthew R. Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming

    Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economyand chairman,

    Simmons and Company International

    “A great primer for all leaders on the art and science of decision making. Michael

    used examples ranging from the disastrous 1996 Everest climb to the Columbia

    disaster, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban missile crisis to thoughtfully outline best

    practices in the process of ‘deciding how to decide!’”

    —Lawrence N. Stevenson, CEO, PepBoys

    “Every executive aspiring to be a good leader should read this book. First,

    Roberto crashes the myth that holds many back from being good leaders. That is,

    good leaders need to make the decisions. Instead, Roberto asserts that to be a

    good leader one must manage the decision-making process, not make the good

    decisions. But it is Roberto’s insight into the decision-making process, or more

    importantly, the drivers of organizational performance, that is most valuable. All

    of us, no matter what level in the organization, need to embrace the need for cog-

    nitive conflict to produce the highest-quality decisions, while guarding against the

    ways in which affective conflict can greatly deteriorate the shared understanding

    and consensus necessary for effective implementation of these decisions. Roberto

    offers many tools and techniques for all of us to use to improve our ability to man-

    age conflict and improve our organization’s effectiveness and performance. While

    I believe that Constellation’s success results from the fact that our operational

    model and its supporting culture and value reflect much of what Roberto

    describes, I also believe that we can use this model to ensure that managing con-

    flict becomes an enduring part of Constellation’s leadership culture.”

    —Richard Sands, chairman of the board and CEO,

    Constellation Brands, Inc. “The premise of this book is music to my ears. For years I’ve been working with

    teams of people facing real challenges, both in the great outdoors with Outward

    Bound or in the midst of bringing my educational venture to life. Roberto has ele-

    gantly and eloquently put his finger on the very heart of the leadership dilemma.

    I look forward to putting the lessons to work at Shackleton Schools as we inspire

    and educate the next generation of leaders.”

    —Luke O’Neill, CEO and founder, Shackleton Schools

    “Today, every CEO in the rapidly changing business environment cudgels his or

    her brains out on how to make and execute decisions effectively. This book is very

    much useful in that it shows extensively how to deal with such issues, together

    with abundant examples. Japanese business managers should read it to be

    exposed to such approaches that, I believe, are well applicable to consensus-

    driven Japanese companies.”

    —Shozo Hashimoto, former CEO, Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.

    “Do you want to release the potential of your organization? If you have the ego

    and strength to hear contrary ideas, this is a fantastic read. Each paragraph, each

    sentence, is powerful, offering tools and suggestions to bring your organization to

    a higher level.”

    —Gerardine Ferlins, president and CEO, Cirtronics Corporation

    “How we make decisions is what organizational leadership is all about, and with

    powerful accounts and compelling research, Michael Roberto brilliantly leads us

    to the essence of deciding how to decide when it really matters.”

    —Michael Useem, William and Jacalyn Egan professor of management,

    Wharton School of Business and author of

    The Leadership Moment

    “Through the ages, many leaders have paid a price for not comprehending the

    need to balance conflict and consensus in the decision-making groups they head.

    Mike Roberto frames this tension exquisitely and provides tangible guidance for

    leaders who want variety, ferment, and constructive tension in their groups on the

    one hand, and unity in execution on the other. Based upon a wealth of rigorous

    academic research, and with loads of up-to-date and engaging examples, this book

    is a must for leaders at all levels.”

    —Donald C. Hambrick, Smeal chaired professor of management, Smeal

    College of Business Administration, The Pennsylvania State University

    “Michael Roberto has written a soundly researched, yet easy-to-read, practical

    business book that can ensure that you will make better executive decisions. Read

    it and profit from its wisdom!”

    —Dr. Drea Zigarmi, co-author of The Leader Within and

    Leadershipand the One Minute Manager “This book is an important contribution to managerial best practice. Roberto

    gives an impressive synthesis of original and prior research in writing that is rich,

    well-crafted, to the point, and studded with compelling case examples. Get this

    book and study it carefully as a tonic for decision processes in your own firm.”

    —Robert F. Bruner, distinguished professor of business

    administration, Darden Graduate School of Business

    Administration, University of Virginia

    “Drawing on both decision-making scholarship in a number of academic

    disciplines and clinical research in organizations, Roberto develops a most useful

    way of thinking about decision making in complex organizations and provides a

    number of conceptual tools that executives can apply right away and that provide

    some new frontiers for scholars to study further.”

    —E. Ralph Biggadike, professor of professional practice,

    Columbia University Graduate School of Business

    “Professor Roberto has provided a rigorous, research-based, and much-needed

    framework that allows executives to improve their decision making. Those

    managers who want to improve decision making—and results—need to read

    this book.”

    —Professor Morten Hansen, associate professor of

    entrepreneurship, INSEAD

    “Far too often leaders squelch dissenting views and make it difficult for employ-

    ees to deliver bad news. Others find it difficult to manage contentious debate and

    obtain closure on tough issues. Roberto provides practical advice for how leaders

    can encourage constructive disagreement, use this to achieve more creative solu-

    tions, and ultimately affect alignment and action.”

    —Jeff Weiss, director and founder, Vantage Partners

    “While reading Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, I kept think-

    ing of the strategic decisions my team and I have made, and wished I had read

    the book 25 years ago. Focus on the decision-making process—not the decision

    itself—is the lesson of this book, and one that all executives need to learn.”

    —William C. Byham, Ph.D., chairman & CEO, Development Dimensions

    International and author of Grow Your Own Leaders Why Great Leaders

    Don’t Take Yes for

    an Answer In the face of accelerating turbulence and change, business leaders and policy

    makers need new ways of thinking to sustain performance and growth.

    Wharton School Publishing offers a trusted source for stimulating ideas from

    thought leaders who provide new mental models to address changes in

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    whartonsp.com and Wharton’s executive education site,

    exceed.wharton.upenn.edu. Why Great Leaders

    Don’t Take Yes for

    an Answer

    Managing for Conflict and


    Michael A. Roberto

    Harvard Business School Library of CongressCatalog Number: 2005920211

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    uf6d92005 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form or by any

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    Printed in the United States of America

    First Printing June 2005

    ISBN 0-13-145439-0

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