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Executive Assessment

Financial Times – Why a Leader’s Past Record is No Guide To Future Success

  • July 2019

Successful leadership depends on context, collaboration and character

Economist, politician and corporate lawyer Christine Lagarde’s extensive resume indicates a fitting suit in the role of running the European Central Bank regardless of critics who note her lack of experience in academic training and monetary policy. Lagarde has been praised for her communication and leadership skills, most notably during her navigation of the International Monetary Fund through periods of financial turbulence. And yet, these past successes seldom predict future performance in these positions accurately. 

Successful leadership relies on character and context as much as on qualification, and there is no singular method of determining how a leader will approach a challenge regardless if they have experienced a similar encounter before. During conflict, numerous factors including experience, aptitude, mindset and bahavioral volatility all vye for dominance, a complexity that often takes its toll on even the most seasoned of leaders.

According to Egon Zehnder, an individual's curiosity is perhaps the greatest indicator of his or her potential and success, as it provides a keen insight to both their motivations and overall mentality. “It is a question that takes people aback, so they have to think anew about that person,” chairwoman Jill Ader said.

Second to curiosity, one's acute ability to assess those around them is essential for collective growth and success. Ignoring or simply failing to recognize an individual's qualifications, or a lack thereof, can result in the fracturing of leadership as evidenced during the HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland financial crises, as the two banks were chaired by non-bankers. Ultimately, modern success is dependent on the symbiotic relationship of two key factors: knowledge of one's respective industries and a constructive reliance on a team of technical experts. Ms. Lagarde should be no different.



Full Story: Andrew Hill: Why a Leader’s past record is no guide to future success” in Financial Times (11 July 2019).


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