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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Positive Leadership: Making the Call

This New York Times interview with Enrique Salem, president and C.E.O. of Symantec, the computer security company is worth reading in full.

‘Q. What were some important leadership lessons for you?

A. I played high school football — I was a linebacker — and then I played at Dartmouth. When you play football, you really understand it is a team effort. When you play organizesd sports, especially team sports, it’s not about individuals. I think organised sports are a way to learn a lot about things that will be helpful in business.

Q. Other lessons you learned playing sports?

A. I was captain of the varsity football team my senior year of high school. We called the plays the coach would signal in to us from the sideline. I used to be very much a student of the game. I would watch the game films myself and get ideas of what we should do, what we should think about.
One time the coach called a defensive play and I changed it, and after having some success with that I said, “Oh, this isn’t so hard.” But then another player runs on the field and replaces me, and I run to the bench and the coach says, “When you want to call what I’m calling, you can go back in the game.” So I sat on the bench for a play or two and then went over and said: “O.K., Coach. I got it. I’m sorry.” And he put me back in the game. I really learned this notion that whoever’s making the calls, you’ve got to listen to that person. And he pulled me aside after the game and we talked about it, and he said: “I know you love the game. I know you study the game. But you’ve got to realise that when I make calls, I’m setting something up. I’m looking at something that’s happening, and you can’t be out there second-guessing me on this.” I still remember that story. In business, somebody has to make the call. I learned that pretty early on.

Q. And do you find yourself ever having to explain to somebody the point that the coach made to you?

A. Absolutely. You run into situations where there’s a bigger picture sometimes that an individual who’s working on a project may not be able to see, and can’t understand all the implications of any decision you make.’