On Executive Thinking

I recently finished reading Executive Thinking by Leslie L. Kossoff.

Below are thirteen key lessons, in the form of excerpts form the book, that I found particularly insightful:

1) “The executive must be able to speak to his vision clearly and charismatically in order for others to know where it is that he sees the organization going and why. That clear, exciting picture is the one that must be communicated, translated, and demonstrated to the rest of the organization through the actions and words of the executive and his executive and management staff.”

2) “Executive Thinking is not conventional thinking, nor is it a conventional organizational process. It is one in which, based on the dream of the executive, everyone becomes involved as an active participant in the shared dream. It is both tangible and amorphous. It is both process and result. It is the life and breath of the organization.”

3) “The executive must realize that, because his dream is iterative and evolutionary, there will never be a time when it is finished.”

4) “Knowingly or not, executives form their organization in their own image. The importance for the executive is to realize that the organization adopts what it believes to be that image. This puts a particular onus on the executive to be aware of the image he is projecting and to understand that the members of the organization are looking to him to determine the image and actions they must project.”

5) “It is useful for the executive to think of the dynamics within the organization not as competitive or adversarial activities, but as a dance. In so doing, the previously competitive and adversarial actions become part of a larger choreography wherein each person performs his steps while always knowing that his part is a part of the larger dance. That choreography is designed and determined by the executive.”

6) “As humans we are not limited to seeing things in one particular way. We choose to see things in a way that is most familiar to us. We develop thinking processes that keep us from seeing all that there is to see. We limit ourselves by not looking for or accepting the potential that is presented to us. But, just as thinking is a skill, our thinking paths can be altered and added to.”

7) “There are five trust-building behaviors that must be demonstrated. They are respect, reciprocity, consistency, integrity and involvement. Each is equally important. Unless each behavior is manifest, the model will not work. It may have some success, but ultimately it will falter and possibly fail.”

8) “Executive Thinking makes it worthwhile for individuals to challenge their previously held beliefs. Each individual sees that her participation in the system works not only to the benefit of the organization but to her own benefit as well.”

9) “The dream must be positioned so that its intent is clear and its outcome are of benefit to everyone. In this way, it becomes more than just the dream of the executive. It becomes the dream of each and every associate throughout the organization. The paradox of empowerment is that the stronger the executive and his direction and management of the organization, the more empowered the associates can be.”

10) “One of the problems that might well be encountered is the mistaken impression that a participative organization is a tolerant organization. This is and must be patently untrue. There can be no tolerance for behaviors that are not in keeping with the goals, expectations, and commitments of the organization to its associates and to its stakeholders.”

11) “Executive Thinking is a balance between action and results. Problems occur only when and if the process is wholly biased toward one or the other. Action must occur in the form of thinking and the actions that ensue as a result of that thinking. Results occur based on thinking and actions taken.”

12) “Decisions are made using the dream as the context. Actions taken are assessed both while in progress and after the fact to determine whether all the factors were adequately considered. Analyzing and applying lessons learned becomes an operating norm for the organization, both for those decisions that worked and for those decisions that did not work as expected.”

13) “Executive Thinking, however, is the greatest legacy that the executive can leave the enterprise. Through his commitment and actions he will have taught the organization how to dream…Thinking will have become a norm.”


Omar Halabieh

Executive Thinking


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