Leaders Who Know When to Hold and When to Fold.

By Guest

By Mary Lippitt ,
Enterprise Management Ltd.  www.enterprisemgt.com


If leaders keep on doing what they have always done, they will get the same results, which is a recipe for disaster. Both leaders and poker players need to know when to “hold to and when to fold.” They need to decipher the internal and external environment and adjusting plans to actual reality and opportunities.

US Airways’ Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s success in dealing with total engine power loss with a clear decision to land in the Hudson River stemmed from his ability to prioritize goals. In his biography, Sully talks about “goal sacrificing” when you have to select which goal is the most critical to act on. He accepted the loss of a multi-million dollar plane to save lives. He was able to make that decision only because he was clear about his priorities and the situation.

Concentrating on results, or leading with the “end in mind,” is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He stresses the importance of starting with the “end in mind.” But what happens when the start, middle or end changes?  Staying the course or achieving what is no longer desirable should not be seen as an accomplishment. In fact, it can threaten an organization’s survival. Leaders who know how to keep their “eye on today’s key prize” based on current circumstances are those who succeed.

A solid understanding of the six business priorities helps leaders adjust to critical priorities and avoids being blindsided by “unanticipated” events. It is not just in hindsight that financial executives should have recognized that giving 90 to 95% mortgages was too risky. Experts were warning about a real estate bubble, and yet leaders continued to make mortgages. One bank executive summarized his decision making process by saying that “I know this thing will blow up but as long as the music is playing, I have to dance.”

As Peter Drucker observed “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” Can you leaders deliver the right results are at the right time in the right way and at the right cost? We cannot expect leaders to control events, but we can expect them to act wisely.

Effective leadership requires not only personal awareness and skills, but also business insight and judgment. Captain Sully knew how to prioritize his goals. He did not try to save the plane, and he did not try to make it to an alternative airport. He understood his resources, his situation, his team, and his key goal, resulting in life saving landing. Are you doing all you can to help your leaders understand the critical goals and what it will take to achieve them? It could be your critical priority right now.


This is a beautifully written post and so on the mark. Captain Sullenberger is a perfect example of leadership at its best. But he was prepared for leadership by training and the experience of making decisions every day that had the potential for catastrophic results. The bankers pushed their clients and stakeholders over the cliff with impunity. And you know what, almost none of them have been held accountable.


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