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13 May 2013 Posted by 

Intelligent conservatism the preferred leadership model

CONSERVATISM not charisma is the vital ingredient for a successful business leader, claims a new study.

Research into the leaders at 100-year-old European companies has found that ‘intelligent conservatism’ trumps charismatic leaders.

Every company is looking for their own Steve Jobs, a charismatic leader that can power their firm to new heights, but after looking at some of Europe’s biggest and most enduring firms like Royal Dutch Shell, Glaxo and LaFarge Dr Christian Stadler found that bosses at the other end of the spectrum were a better bet.

The Warwick Business School Associate Professor said: “In our study of the leadership and strategy of 100-year-old European corporations, we found a different style of leadership was far more common among companies that have achieved enduring success — something that we call ‘intelligent conservatism’. “This is a surer way to lead successfully rather than relying on charisma.

Six out of 18 winners of Germany’s Manager of the Year award went on to make huge strategic mistakes that badly damaged their companies. The understated ‘intelligent conservative’ leader doesn’t make such big mistakes.” Dr Stadler says the problem with charismatic leaders is just that – charisma.

Their exceptional powers of persuasion means there is little resistance if they are taking the company in the wrong direction. “If your company is heading in the right direction, a charismatic leader will get you there faster,” said Dr Stadler, who is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School. “Unfortunately, if you’re heading in the wrong direction, charisma will also get you there faster.” In contrast ‘intelligent conservatism’ has bred steady growth for leaders and their businesses over a long time.

In MIT Sloan Management review Dr Stadler said: “Occasionally, charismatic leaders pop up, but for the most part, the leaders of these 100-year-old European companies have succeeded by listening to their people and relying on old-fashioned industry expertise.”

Nicole Baines

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