Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others

“What qualities make leaders able to sail through the rolling ocean that is the new normal, and bring their people with them?  And how can leaders develop those attributes?”

Powerful questions.

To find the answers Justin Menkes and his team interviewed over 200 CEO candidates at major U.S. corporations and conducted psychological evaluations with 60 current and retired CEOs from the world’s largest companies.

The 200 candidates were classified into three groups: the top-performing quartile (highly successful), the middle two quartiles (average performers) and the bottom quartile (highly ineffective).  An exhaustive behavioral analysis revealed six critical attributes that were highly consistent among the top performers and totally absent among the bottom performers.  Menkes sorted these traits into “three meta-attributes, or what I call catalysts”.  He goes on to say “each of these three traits is a catalyst of the mastery displayed by the most successful CEOs”. 

They are:

  • Realistic optimism
  • Subservience to purpose
  • Ability to find order in chaos

Throughout the book the author describes the attributes in action by telling the stories of business people and real business scenarios.  He also takes the time to show what the absence of each attribute looks and sounds like – again through stories about real business people in real business situations. 

The book contains an unexpected bonus in the form of exercises to help one measure optimism, address avoidance problems, measure commitment to purpose, and evaluate one’s ability to find order in chaos.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in building high performance within his or her organization.  It will especially appeal to those feeling the effects of the new normal:  that is, pressure to produce increased results with less resources. 

Justin Menkes is an acclaimed author and consultant for the executive search firm Spencer Stuart.  He specializes in CEO succession planning and selection.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Mr. Menke’s book from his publicist for the purpose of writing this review.

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