Certainty and Leadership

Ok ... I hope this doesn't turn into a political or religious commentary. Let's focus, if possible, on the business implications of what I'm writing.

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Ron Suskind writes a brilliant article called "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush." It shows how GWB's unflagging certainty about all of his opinions has shut down debate and discourse in his inner circle—and even beyond his inner circle. There is a story of a meeting with a group of Senators where the president got Switzerland and Sweden mixed up and argued that Sweden is "the neutral one" without an Army. He refused to be corrected, and everyone shut up. In addition to this article, Suskind wrote "The Price of Loyalty" about what happened to Paul O'Neill when he began to question W.

What are the implications for leaders who don't question their beliefs, and consider challenges from their advisers as disloyalty? (My best boss ever had a credo for his direct reports, telling us not to be yes-men: "Don't let me f--- up!")