No Fear of Failure: Real Stories of How Leaders Deal with Risk and Change (Review)


In No Fear of Failure: Real Stories of How Leaders Deal with Risk and Change, Gary Burnison takes on a subject that many leaders might rather not discuss: failure. But as the CEO of Korn/Ferry International, a NYSE-traded company and the world’s largest executive recruiting firm, Burnison knows that failure is always a potential outcome for which leaders must be prepared. Great leaders not only accept that fact, they embrace it, knowing that without failure success is not really possible. With failure come the experiences and lessons that hone skills, refine the approach, and, ultimately, lead to success.

No Fear of Failure profiles twelve distinctive leaders who, in one-on-one interviews, revealed their thoughts on leadership. They include: Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg L.P.; Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and founder of two Fortune 500 companies; Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo; Lt. General Franklin “Buster” Hagenbeck, a three-star general and retired Superintendent of West Point: John McKissick, the “winningest” coach in football at any level; Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico; Carlos Slim, an entrepreneur in telecommunications and other industries and the richest man in the world; Liu Chuanzhi, founder of Lenovo, the Beijing-based PC manufacturer; Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard; Daniel Vasella, chairman of Swiss drug company Novartis; Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, former CEO of Nokia; and Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and CEO of Xerox.

These real stories offer up close and personal looks at effective leadership at its best.

  • For Bloomberg, leading means delegating responsibility and authority.  Delegating also becomes a powerful recruitment tool to attract people who want to join a successful team and make a difference.
  • For Nooyi, leading means inspiring through purpose, helping people to see that their contributions not only benefit the company, but also the environment, society, and the world at large.
  • For Fox, leading means remaining humble, focusing on the needs of others and being inspired by one’s “heroic aspirations.”
  • For Liu, leading means persevering through obstacles and difficulties, remaining true to the vision of what is possible.

Reflecting on the examples of these leaders, as well as his own experiences as CEO of Korn/Ferry, Burnison offers powerful reflections on leadership.
On Transparency
Leaders need to be open and transparent with others, particularly their teams. As Burnison describes, people need to look into a leader’s eyes and see his/her soul. Leaders cannot become isolated or insulated. This is always true, but especially during difficult times.
On Accountability and Responsibility
A leader is ultimately accountable for what happens on his/her watch. The team member or individual manager is responsible for what he/she does and is accountable to some extent. But the leader is always accountable. As Burnison says, leaders get too much credit when things go well, and too much blame when things go badly.
On Having No Fear of Failure
Because failure is always a possibility, leaders must be cognizant of this possible outcome, yet never paralyzed by it. As Burnison observes, leaders must have a deep inner serenity that comes from accepting the inevitability of failure, learning from it when it does occur, and using that wisdom as a bridge to eventual success.
Through candid interviews and intimate conversation with some of the best and most interesting leaders in the world, No Fear of Failure offers unique insights into what it takes to lead--and succeed--in the world today.

Click here to get more information or purchase the book.   


This article was written by Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International - global executive search firm and member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

About the Association of Executive Search Consultants
The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) is the worldwide professional association for the retained executive search and leadership consulting industry. The AESC promotes the highest professional standards in retained executive search and leadership consulting through its industry recognized Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines. The AESC also serves to broaden public understanding of the retained executive search and leadership consulting process and acts as an advocate for the interests of its member firms.

About BlueSteps
BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in more than 75 countries, including China. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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