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Athletic CEOs

Athletic CEOs

Stanislav Shekshnia | Alexey Ulanovsky | Veronika Zagieva


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Book Details


Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times is a book about high-performing transformational leaders operating in turbulent environments. These CEOs do not lead by the book: they may not praise their subordinates, provide positive feedback or regularly celebrate small wins. Yet they have created formidable enterprises that deliver sustainable growth, have elevated their companies’ employees to new levels, have set new standards for their industries and have advanced their regions. Most remarkably, in spite of their prominence, these leaders continue to reinvent themselves.

Having studied them for a decade, Stanislav Shekshnia, Veronika Zagieva and Alexey Ulanovsky developed a model of athletic leadership which describes the leadership agendas, practices, outcomes and outputs of these leaders as well as unique attributes that make them effective.

‘Athletic CEOs is […] a must-read for every leader who’s facing a challenging transformation in today’s chaotic business world.’
—Morten T. Hansen, Professor, University of California Berkeley, USA; coauthor of Great by Choice; author of Great at Work

‘Athletic CEOs does not describe a leadership model that we most champion these days. […] It puts a different array of leadership tools at our fingertips and even on an ordinary workday, there may be a tool in this kit that meets a need.’
—Whitney Johnson, Thinkers50 Management Thinkers; author of Disrupt Yourself

‘Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times’ is about leaders who do not lead by the book: people who score low on emotional intelligence, do not praise their subordinates, and rarely provide constructive feedback or celebrate small wins. Yet it is also a book about high-performing transformational leaders – Alexander Dyukov (Gazprom Neft), German Gref (Sberbank), Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab) and Vitaly Saveliev (Aeroflot). Each of them has created a formidable enterprise that is delivering sustainable growth in profits and shareholder value; setting new standards for the industry; leaving a positive impact on its employees and on the country and the regions it operates in; and – most remarkably – continuing to reinvent itself.

Stanislav Shekshnia, Alexey Ulanovsky and Veronika Zagieva have studied the work of these leaders for a decade and developed a model of leadership that delivers superior results in a specific context, that is, one of fast obsolescence, high turbulence, intense government interference, mediocre levels of human capital development and traditionally high levels of managerial control. The model is called Athletic Leadership because of the strong parallels between the protagonists’ attitudes and behaviors and those of top sportspeople. Athletic Leaders share a formative experience of practising competitive sports in their youth, facing early adversity as leaders of important projects, and changing companies and industries along the way. They possess two traits that define their leadership personality: mental toughness and adaptability. Athletic CEOs also use specific iterative behavioral and mental strategies at work – ‘meta-practices’ of Athletic Leadership. They deliver superior operational and financial results (leadership outputs) and transform their followers, companies, industries and communities (leadership outcomes).

Written for people who are interested in the subject of leadership in business, ‘Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times’ offers interesting ideas and practical insights for people from other walks of life such as politics, government and education.

Stanislav Shekshnia is a professor at INSEAD and senior partner at Ward Howell International. His research concentrates on leadership and governance in emerging markets and organizations.

Veronika Zagieva is a director at Ward Howell Talent Equity Institute. Her research focuses on leadership and corporate governance.

Alexey Ulanovsky is an associate professor at National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, and a consultant at Ward Howell International. He specializes in leadership development and organizational behaviour.

‘INSEAD Professor Stanislav Shekshnia and colleagues capture the essence of the leadership challenge in turbulent times. Leaders today feel like athletes – learning and working 24/7 – and pushing to get better every day.’
—Mark C. Thompson, New York Times Bestselling Leadership Author and #1 Growth Coach

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Cover 1
Front Matter iii
Half title i
Title page iii
Copyright information iv
Tables of Contents v
list of illustrations vii
Figures vii
Tables vii
Chapter Int-9 1
Introduction 1
1 Athletic Leadership Explained 9
Why Athletic Leadership? 9
Environment 10
Practices 11
Personality 12
Model of Athletic Leadership 13
Formative Experience 13
Mental Toughness 15
Super-sized Ambition 16
Passion 16
Focus 17
Cool-headedness 17
Mercilessness 18
Mental Adaptability 19
Proactive Curiosity 19
Rapid Knowledge Reinvigoration 22
Flexible Mental Models 23
Context and Leadership Challenges 24
What Athletic Leaders Are Not 34
Further Reading 37
2 The Agenda and Practices of Athletic Leaders 39
Leadership Agenda 39
Metapractices of Athletic Leaders 45
Pragmatic Exploration 47
Navigating towards a Moving Target 51
Evolving – Yet Crystal Clear – Vision 51
Making Clothes with Room for Growth 52
‘Both Ends’ Leadership 52
Reinventing the Magic Solution 53
Slack Rope 53
Do As I Do 54
Dynamic Autonomy 54
Encouraging Internal Competition 55
Rewarding Loyalty and Performance 55
Quiet Recognition. Tough Love 56
Hogging the Limelight 56
Scoring Key Goals 57
Evangelism 57
Faces of the Industry 57
Media Stars 58
Chief Defenders 58
Feeding and Milking 59
Working for the Country and for Their Communities 60
Displaying Loyalty Publicly, Challenging Privately 60
Proactive Contribution 61
Comprehensive Collaboration Rather Than Deal Making 61
Shielding the Company 62
Building and Maintaining Informal Networks 62
Further Reading 63
3 Effectiveness of Athletic Leadership: Outputs and Outcomes 65
Outputs of Athletic Leadership 66
Outcomes of Athletic Leadership 68
Reformed Followers 68
Athletic Companies 71
Wide-reaching Impact 76
The Reverse Side of the Medal 77
Risks and Limitations of Athletic Leadership 78
Further Reading 80
4 Vitaly Saveliev: Passion and Innovation at the Old Airline 83
Humble Beginnings and Ambitious Goals 84
Vitaly Saveliev: Profile of a Leader 86
Ambition 87
Passion 87
Developmental Focus 88
Leading Turnaround 89
Building the Foundations of a Global Champion 94
Saveliev’s Leadership, Culture and Legacy 98
5 Eugene Kaspersky: Saving the World 103
History 104
Innovations and Threats 108
International Expansion 110
Organizational Structure 113
Corporate Culture 114
Kaspersky’s Leadership 115
6 Alexander Dyukov: Quiet Transformation of Gazprom Neft 119
Building a Foundation 122
Growth 125
Organic Growth 126
Non-organic Growth 127
First Oil from the Arctic 128
Development of the Organization 129
Technology and Beyond 131
Never Satisfied with Results 133
7 Herman Gref at Sberbank: Entrepreneurship in the Least Likely Place 139
Herman Gref: Profile of a Leader 139
Teaching Sberbank to Rock and Roll 141
Building World-Class Human Capital: Competencies and Values 146
Teaching Sberbank to Fly 149
8 Athletic Leadership in Other Regions: Roger Agnelli, Dong Mingzhu and Jeff Bezos 159
Brazil: Roger Agnelli 160
China: Dong Mingzhu 165
United States: Jeff Bezos 171
9 Athletic Leadership for Non-Athletes 179
Lessons for Business Leaders 180
Borrowing Some Elements and Instruments of Athletic Leadership to Complement Current Leadership Practice 180
Using Athletic Leadership for a Specific Project or Task 181
Aspiring Business Leaders 182
Politicians 185
Transformational Ambition 185
Pragmatic Exploration 185
General Public 186
Leadership Development Professionals 187
Attention to All Aspects That Define Leadership 188
Defining the Leadership Agenda 188
Leadership Practices 189
Scholars of Leadership 189
Further Reading 192
Films and Television Series 193
End Matter 195
Appendix: Research Methodology 195
Methods 196
In- depth Interviews 196
Observation of Participants 197
Action Research 197
Qualitative Media Analysis 197
Quantitative Data Analysis 197
Secondary Sources 198
Index 199