Leadership: Are we “Targeting” the right things?

Posted August 1, 2014 in Latest News & Insights

Yesterday, embattled US retailer Target announced their new CEO.  A gentleman by the name of Brian Cornell who’s most recent stint was a PepsiCo.  He’s the first outside hire and immediately the media analysts and pundits started complaining about all the things this guy is lacking before he even hits the bricks in the role.  Once again proving to me that many “so-called experts” don’t have a clue…especially when it comes to what it takes to lead.  Here’s why…

From the reports I’ve read, the overarching criticisms about Mr. Cornell seem to be that:

  1. he doesn’t have enough digital experience; and,
  2. he hasn’t got enough knowledge of the Canadian market.

Both these areas are strategic priorities for Target, so, the implication here is that he’s maybe not the guy for the job.  What bullshit.  (Sorry Mum but this kind of thing just gets me fired up).

Whether Mr. Cornell knows and understands either of those things to great depth is less important than his ability to surround himself with people who do know.  The view that a CEO should be some kind of all seeing, all knowing oracle is ridiculous.  But of course, what do you expect from analysts who have (likely) never led anything.

Focusing solely on things like a candidate’s prior background, education and experience is, frankly, like choosing a spouse because they look good on paper and clean up well.  Anyone who’s married knows that a good long-term partnership is about shared values, mutual respect and all that other “soft stuff” that business analysts routinely underestimate.

In my opinion, the key to Mr. Cornell’s success – and any leader stepping into a turnaround situation – will be how well he listens to all the smart people working at Target who know what needs to be done.  Then he’ll need to have the ability to galvanize a beaten up team to collectively turn things around.  That’s what will make the difference.

So remember this when you feel your capability is in question.  Great leaders don’t have all the answers.  Great leaders have the right questions.  And, as the fabulous Brene Brown says: when you’re in the arena don’t spend your time listening to the criticism of the bystanders on the sidelines.  Leaders get in the arena every day.  Don’t ever let the criticism of pundits bring you down.

Happy leading!

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One Comment

  1. Kim Ades says:

    Loved this article Glain! You hit the nail right on the head!