Another Paradox of Leadership . . .

 How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.  -Niels Bohr

 I have to admit, I lead a pretty schizophrenic life, but I like it.  Last week I was flyfishing for Striped Bass off Cape Cod and this week I am in Paris at the major European Military and Defense trade show, Eurosatory.  I have two clients displaying their products inside this huge conference center on the outskirts of Paris, along with 1,300 other makers of tanks, Gatling guns, armored vehicles, military clothing and you name it from 54 countries.  If the land military forces use it, there’s a booth for it.  Oakley, the cool sunglasses people even make military shades.  Look cool and carry a big gun!

What’s fascinating about this show is that while defense spending in the US and globally is being cut back significantly, this place is packed with officers in uniform from nearly every country shopping for the latest hardware and technological solutions to defend their country. And of course the suppliers are checking out each other’s products and making comparisons. But what is most fascinating to me are the Chinese, who are here in droves taking pictures of equipment and even the display videos. It seems well-organized and I just wonder where all these pictures wind up.  We aren’t talking home movies here.

One of the predictable dynamics in business in that in any market downturn, there are companies that can’t survive on lower volume production and so the acquisition market heats up and consolidation of capacity takes place.  Which to the layman means that a large number of companies are for sale at attractive prices. The trick is to look for those that are a strategic fit and not just go shopping for added production volume.

This brings about a curious problem, which both my clients are facing.  How to shrink in size to match the market downturn while at the same time acquire and grow strategically to position for the future.

And thus we run into one of the key elements of effective leadership; the ability to pursue both short-term and long-term objectives with equal vigor and commitment.

In my experience this is where many in positions of leadership fall down.  Inevitably the pressure of posting strong quarterly results overrides investing in the future. Results look good, Wall Street is happy, but the future suffers and such short sided decisions don’t show up until several years later. Then it’s a scramble to catch up. This short-term vs long-term focus is further exacerbated by the fact that most senior executives spend a majority of their time fighting daily fires and operational issues and not having time to focus on strategic requirements.

In our client work we have solved the short-term vs long-term paradox with the use of a disciplined management governance process, called the Line-of-Sight Strategy Execution Roadmap, that requires the senior team to focus on both operational and strategic business issues once every two weeks.  As a result, issues are recognized and addressed early and the entire team focuses on finding rapid response solutions.

I feel a need for speed!  – Tom Cruise in Top Gun

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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2 Responses to Another Paradox of Leadership . . .

  1. Steve Borek says:

    Before becoming an executive coach, I spent 20 years selling high technology.

    One of my first sales of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software was to Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY. I just loved visiting this customer on a regular basis. I always felt a little bit different every time I entered this facility vs. other commercial customers.

    I can’t put my finger on it. I guess it was the “smell” of the place. There were military airplanes taking off and landing. Special projects of a top secret nature going on around me.

    I guess I loved being around the military.


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