Donald B. Bibeault in his best-selling turnaround book offers us a reflexion: “We used to assume that the best managers are those whose people are happy, that happiness comes from encouragement and praise, and those consistent demands for better performance are bad for morale. With this conventional wisdom often come the simultaneous toleration of ineffective subordinates.”

I would like to highlight a few of the turnaround leader characteristics that Bibeault mentions and probably are not very well understood according to “conventional wisdom”:

  • Turnaround leaders do not tolerate ineffectiveness. They clearly and substantively differentiate between outstanding and mediocre performers. They have the courage to “act on people”.
  • They step on a lot of toes, but if they do not step a lot of toes, they have not probably done their job.
  • They are impatient to get something done. They are implementers.
  • They are highly competitive men that enjoy a fight. They are fighters.
  • Turnaround men move decisively but do so base on facts, not fantasy.
  • They used to be tough people that demand as much from their subordinates as they do.
  • In a tough turnaround, the turnaround leaders used to decide that business needs come first, people come second. Be aware that if business is not turnaround, business can be closed down and everybody gets fire.
  • They used to be too controversial, argues too much, wants too much, demand too much.

Probably it is wrong to try to use the leadership characteristics of custodial managers (“they do what has to be done. They run the business like it is supposed to be run”) for turnaround managers that it looks needs “unconventional” leadership characteristics.

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