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CEOs: Be Neither Coercive Nor Pacesetting

By John S. McClenahen To admirers, they're often described as brilliant. To detractors, they're sometimes described in far less charitable terms. But to Debra Nunes, a senior vice president at the Hay Group, Philadelphia, CEOs who expect employees to comply without question and those who personally model performance standards are largely ineffective team leaders. Coercive or pacesetting behavior, ironically something that may have helped CEOs achieve the top spot, alienates other top management team members and retards needed collaboration, she indicates. "In a sense, their mythologies precede them, and their strong, forceful presences simply suck the air out of the room, creating an environment of worship rather than teamwork," says Nunes. "The challenge for these types of leaders, and others, is to turn off some of the skills and behaviors that have served them so well on their rise to the top, and turn on the listening and social skills that are not always reinforced in a hierarchical corporate culture," she says. She cautions, however, that CEOs should not forego strong leadership. Indeed, a recent Hay study shows that the most effective team leaders are both authoritative and democratic: They give strong direction while making team members believe their voices will be heard and what they say matters.

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