Those who succeed in today’s faster, flatter world will be those who get their relationships right, not just their strategies. Yet even after decades of research on leadership, organizations, and markets, we know nothing systematic or useful about relationships.
Relationships make or break success
In The Elephant in the Room, I draw on stories from the historical record and my own research to show how relationships can either drive phenomenal success or produce stunning failures.
- Think of Apple’s 12-year slump after the breakdown in the relationship between Steve Jobs and John Sculley in the 1980s, or Michael Ovitz and Michael Eisner’s 130-million dollar breakup at Disney, or the struggling US economy, held hostage by Republican and Democratic congressmen unable to agree on anything.
- Now think of unwavering alliance Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill built upon their friendship during World War II, or the strength of Lincoln’s team of rivals, or the exceedingly lucrative partnership between Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway, or the savvy with which John Kennedy navigated his relationship with Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis.
- In the first case, leaders got caught up in vicious cycles, with mistrust and animosity on one side fueling mistrust and animosity on the other, until no one could see a way out.
- In the second case, leaders focused on their common interests and treated relationships as a strategic asset, making them strong enough to resolve or weather even their most basic differences.
The difference can be found in the intelligence with which these leaders understood and handled relationships critical to their success.
Harnessing the power of relationships
By revealing the hidden patterns that underlie all relationships, The Elephant in the Room gives leaders the tools they need to handle their most important relationships with far greater intelligence, so they can harness their power and put them work in the service of growth.
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