Characteristic #53: Being Ruthless when Necessary

By | March 20, 2014

[March 20, 2014]  When action is called for, when the company is in a death spiral, when the organization is headed to mission failure; it’s time for the senior leadership to be ruthless and do those things necessary things to save it from destruction.  Doing the right things morally, ethically, and legally is of course a must for all senior leaders. 

Within these parameters there are a actions that can be taken.  Senior leaders must have the capability to be ruthless in execution when the time comes … and yet show heart and compassion in other circumstances.  This is particularly true of our senior military leaders. 

There are some basic principles to guide us in the ruthlessness to bring an organization back from destruction:

  1. Provide a new, innovative, and invigorating strategy.  The strategy, the way to success, must be easy to communicate, simple in design, feasible, and achievable.
  2. Being highly organized.  Organizational leaders must ensure that the information necessary for success is present, relevant, and readily available in such a way that all leadership can use.
  3. Obtaining a sense of urgency.  Ensure a culture of inspiration and motivation by all employees, in particular the leadership.  Motivation is needed to transcend and survive the old approach that precipitated failure.
  4. Ensure uncompromising execution.  From the most senior leader downward in the organization, there must be a focused, coordinated, and aggressive implementation of the new strategy. 

As often seen when our military first enters a combat zone, they often lack the ruthlessness necessary to be successful on the battlefield.  This is, in part, due to the way we operate in peacetime.  When the enemy bloodies us and those we know die in combat, we begin to focus our attention, get organized, and become more ruthless. 

Senior leaders are obligated to provide the ruthlessness to overcome a failing organization.  Otherwise we limp to failure and everything we will have done is simply wasted background noise.


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One good read on the subject is: The Rules of Ruthlessness: Getting Ahead in Business When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough by James DeRossitt



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.