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The Three Paths of Great Leaders

They arrive at the position that great business leaders possess more than celebrated traits like charisma and an appetite for risk. They have what is called “contextual intelligence”–a profound ability to understand the zeitgeist of their times and harness it to create successful organizations. Based on a comprehensive review, Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria present a fascinating collection of stories of the persons that their respondents considered to be the 20th century’s greatest leaders.



One major weakness in our culture is the manner in which we share data. This is evidenced by our limited knowledge of the winning strategies created by many of our Jamaican and Caribbean business leaders. I still hope that The Observer’s Business Leader project and the series of interviews that were conducted by Desmond Allen will evolve into such a scholarly venture. Until then, we will have to draw inspiration from others who have taken the time to do this work.  Such a project was published in 2005 based on a survey of 7,000 executives by Harvard Business School’s Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria for their book, In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of The 20th Century (Harvard Business School Press, 2005).

They arrive at the position that great business leaders possess more than celebrated traits like charisma and an appetite for risk. They have what is called “contextual intelligence”–a profound ability to understand the zeitgeist of their times and harness it to create successful organizations. Based on a comprehensive review, Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria present a fascinating collection of stories of the persons that their respondents considered to be the 20th century’s greatest leaders.

The book identifies three (3) distinct paths that these individuals followed to greatness. Through engaging stories of Entrepreneurial Innovation, Savvy Management, and Transformational Leadership, the authors show how, by “reading” the context they operated in and embracing the opportunities their times presented, these individuals created, grew, or revitalized outstanding American enterprises.

The three types are described as The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Charismatic. Which kind are you? You can find out, taking the following quiz which was published in and created by one of the book’s co-authors, Anthony J. Mayo.
The Leadership Test
1] In which business life stage (or cycle) have you been most successful?

  1. Start-ups
  2. Mature businesses
  3. Turnarounds

2] What is your tolerance for risk?

  1. High
  2. Low
  3. Moderate

3] How important do you consider prevailing economic conditions in determining business success?

  1. Not very important
  2. Extremely important
  3. Somewhat important

4] What best describes your approach in business?

  1. Innovator
  2. Grower
  3. Problem solver

5] Businesses, you feel, most effectively generate value through…

  1. Innovation
  2. Optimization
  3. Reinvention

6] What type of business environment best suits your personality?

  1. Fluid and unpredictable
  2. Highly structured
  3. High risk, high reward

7] Where do you see the greatest opportunity in a business?

  1. Launching a new product or service
  2. Dramatically expanding a successful product or service
  3. Redesigning a product or service for a new constituency

8] What is your definition of successful leadership?

  1. Creating something new
  2. Maximizing potential
  3. Managing change

9] What is the best way to defeat your business competitors?

  1. Invest in a new product or service offering
  2. Offer the best value for your customers
  3. Join forces or consolidate offerings through mergers

10] What business executive do you most admire?

  1. Bill Gates
  2. Meg Whitman
  3. Jack Welch

The Answer Key
If you chose ‘a’ four or more times:
It may be because you’re a great entrepreneur. Your type breaks through the mold of your time to create opportunities for success. You create new, sustainable concepts for the future, revolutionizing industries, processes, or businesses. Plus, you often overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to create and sustain success. Perhaps you’d like to start a new industry today?

If you chose ‘b’ four or more times:
You love maximizing the value of a company that already exists. In other words, you’re a true manager. You might not transform what a corporation is, but you can certainly change its size and scope. You deeply understood the landscape in which you operate and take advantage of the hand you’re dealt to shape businesses that thrive in this environment. You’re adept at tapping into the unique psyche of your times. And you tend to hog the remote.

If you chose ‘c’ four or more times:
You’re a charismatic leader. You can convince people to do just about anything — which is why you’re much like Lee Iacocca, the Chrysler CEO who turned the company around in the ’80s. You’re not exactly an innovator, though you find the value in the trends and contexts set by your predecessors. Still, you’ll often consolidate businesses and industries and are skilled at taking advantage of their situation.

In every age, during every period of adversity, there have been leaders who have forged significant success. This is true in every country around the globe.

Here in Jamaica, we need to start by embracing what is ours, by identifying what opportunities our unique set of circumstances has produced. To spend our time wishing for other circumstances, or a previous time is futile. We need to work with what we have. As Goethe said, “Anything you can do or dream, you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

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Businessuite News24

We Understand The Nature Of The Business World And How It Operates.



“As somebody said to me today, who called me, a very prominent businessperson, who said to me that it is extremely unusual to have a CEO for almost 20 years in a publicly-traded company, so that in and of itself speaks for itself.”

“The fact is that sometimes we get to a point where different stakeholders may have different points of view on the direction in which a company should go, or how things should be managed or evolved, and that’s fine. And if there is a difference and you can’t come to a resolution around it, then separation is part of the resolution. We understand that. That’s part of the game. That’s part of the business that we are involved in,” Hylton told the Business Observer.

Hylton spent 20 years as the head of the NCB Group, while Cohen spent just over 19 years. Both were acknowledged for their service by the bank in a statement in which it was confirmed that they are to be replaced.

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Businessuite News24

I Have A Tremendous Sense Of Accomplishment….Hylton



“We have demonstrated over many years a true owners’ mentality in terms of how we have managed the business. We have treated the business as if it was our own — early mornings, late nights, vacation, no vacation — it was always about the business.

It Has Been A Tremendous Experience Which I And Cohen Enjoyed.

The business is strong, the business is in good hands. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. When we went into NCB, this was an institution that had just failed, had just been rescued, and was in the process of just being rebuilt. It was an institution in which many did not have the confidence, many did not think it had the wherewithal to become a true icon. But this institution is now not just a Jamaican icon, it is a regional icon. It has accomplished tremendous things over this period of time. Not only in terms of the bottom line performance, which has really been outstanding, with up to last year earning nearly $40 billion after taxes. But also in terms of the growth of the business across the region, moving from two or three countries to now being represented in 22 countries across the region, to have representation in Europe. I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment,”

Patrick Hylton in an interview with the Business Observer.

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Businessuite News24

Michael, I Am Not Here To Sell You A Bank.



Coming out of Jamaica’s financial sector meltdown, there were not many takers for assets such as NCB, Hylton said. After negotiating for more than a year, he met alone with Lee-Chin and made a proposal that may have sealed the deal.

“’Michael, I am not here to sell you a bank. I am here to sell you a vision of a bank. I am not here to sell you this bank for what it is today. I am here to sell you this bank for what it can be in the future’,”

Hylton recalled telling the billionaire Canadian-Jamaican businessman.

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Leadership Conversations

The Transformation Unfolding Before Our Eyes – The ‘Professionalising’ Of The Public Service Through Commensurate Compensation And Enforcement Of Standards.



“The country must have a clear sense of what is required of parliamentarians and ministers. In proposing a job description, we are not suggesting anything new or outside our laws and constitution. However, few people have a full appreciation of what the appointment requires. It is hoped that this job description will help members of the public better appreciate and understand the roles and responsibilities.

After careful consideration it was agreed with the Ministry of Finance that it would be a more efficient use of resources and more effective management to roll all efforts into universal reform of the public service, including the job letters for ministers and the executive level performance-based system.

“We have taken a massive step forward with the comprehensive restructuring of our system of public-sector compensation. While critically important, compensation is one element. The Government is determined, and we are moving forward with the complementary key element, which is accountability for performance. Our mission is to ensure that the people of Jamaica enjoy the best public service, the best governance and have access to the best quality of leadership… that any country can have,” Mr. Holness

As a result, in 2019, instructions were given to prepare job descriptions for ministers, and the Transformation Implementation Unit submitted a draft in 2021 after the dislocation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The notion that the reform is piecemeal, or puts the cart before the horse is totally wrong. While we have not been able to communicate all that we have been doing, as several elements are not mature to the point where they could become reality, the transformation unfolding before our eyes is the most significant and comprehensive effort ever undertaken in the history of Jamaica to achieve an efficient and effective public sector.

There are those who hold the view that public service, particularly the political side of it, must be a ‘calling’, and those who offer themselves must do so without expectation of commensurate remuneration. There are others who believe that there is no need to properly pay public servants, particularly politicians, because they will ‘supplement’ their incomes through informal, opaque, or corrupt means. This is the commonly shared thinking that has driven our approach to compensating holders of public office — both administrative and political — in this country since our Independence. Where has it got us?

While we must acknowledge that these views are not without some groundings in our history and lived experience, there comes a time in the life of any society where we must approach the problem from a different angle and apply new thinking and perspectives.

If Jamaica is to achieve its immense potential, the philosophy that has guided our approach to public sector compensation since Independence must change.

It is crucial to recognise the importance of ‘professionalising’ the public service through commensurate compensation and enforcement of standards, rather than relying on the altruism of the public servant and chance that they will make the best effort in serving the country.

While the spirit of selflessness and dedication to the nation are necessary and admirable attributes, depending on them alone is not a sustainable approach to building a competent and efficient public sector. Offering competitive and fair compensation is necessary in improving the motivation of the officeholder.”

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday June 20th 2023 tabled in Parliament his long-promised job descriptions for Cabinet ministers and other legislators.

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Leadership Voices

Only The Chief Has The Authority And Influence To Drive Sufficient And Sustainable Change.



“History suggests that it will take some time before companies get more value from their investments. In 1987, economist Robert Solow observed that “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” U.S. productivity didn’t accelerate until the 1990s, by which time companies had started to figure out how to harness computers. Today, companies might be experiencing something like a second “Solow Paradox” as they try to make sense of a new generation of digital technology, according to Olivia White, senior partner with McKinsey Global Institute.

It is up to CEOs to move this process forward. Productive use of technology might be regarded as a whole-of-company effort, to borrow the “whole-of-government” concept from the public sector, in which every available lever is applied to a large-scale problem. Throughout history, the entire company has been rewired with each successive generation of emerging technology, from the telegraph and telephone, through the internet, the mobile phone, and now the cloud and artificial intelligence. In a hierarchical organization with one leader at the top, only the chief has the authority and influence to drive sufficient and sustainable change.”

By Steven Rosenbush

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