The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership: Interview with Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International


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Following on from my recent interview, The emotional component of customer experience: the next competitive battleground – Interview with Qaalfa Dibeehi of Beyond Philosophy, today I am privileged to share with you an interview I recently conducted with Gary Burnison, Chief Executive Officer of Korn/Ferry International, the worldwide leader in executive recruitment and a premier provider of talent management solutions.

The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership Gary Burnison

This interview makes up number nineteen in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

I’ve known about Korn/Ferry for some time so when they reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in taking a look at Gary’s new book, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership, I asked if he’d like to participate in an interview. They agreed and here we are. Given Gary’s own personal experience but also his access to some of the world’s most successful leaders I thought that his story and insights on leadership would be really interesting.

Below are some highlights from our interview:

  • The easiest things in life to talk about are, generally, the hardest to put into practice
  • The book is a back to basics approach
  • It talks about 12 elements of leadership
  • Leadership is about making others believe
  • In every interaction your aim should be to leave that person feeling better about themselves than they did before
  • Leadership is about making an emotional connection
  • Money is never the most important factor in engagement
  • Leadership is primarily about creating teams and engagement
  • People are at the heart of leadership
  • As a CEO there is what you do and there is how you do it
  • As a leader you have to be looking round the corner to see what is coming up
  • Strategy is about making bets
  • Strategy is not once a year, it’s everyday
  • People are at the heart of everything we do. People have not been dis-intermediated
  • As you move up the corporate pyramid you have to make sure that your world view does not become narrower
  • When you get to the CEO position people tend to treat you as a function rather than a person and people will not speak their mind
  • Leaders should only focus on 2 things: your customers and your people
  • To create real engagement you have to have an outside in view as well as an inside out view
  • As organisations get bigger and more international and multi-cultural both in terms of employees and customers then the thing to do is to go back to basics to become an effective leader and that is to focus on your customers and your people
  • There is a leader within everyone
  • Authenticity is key to leadership and is generally about being open, honest and straightforward
  • Gary’s top three leadership tips to get started on the path to becoming a better leader:
    • One: Start with the destination, what are you trying to achieve, where are you headed and the common purpose (the why) – this ensures that you get engagement right from the start
    • Two: In order to achieve change you have to go and meet people where they are in order to help them move and achieve change
    • Three: Focus on authenticity, where authenticity trumps charisma everyday with everyone

The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership

Gary Burnison

About Gary (taken from his Korn/Ferry International bio page)

Gary D. Burnison is Chief Executive Officer of Korn/Ferry International, the worldwide leader in executive recruitment and a premier provider of talent management solutions, assisting global organizations to achieve extraordinary outcomes through talent. Korn/Ferry employs more than 2,500 people in 40 countries. He is also a member of the Firm’s Board of Directors.

Under his strategy, Mr. Burnison spearheads the Firm’s transformation as a diversified human capital organization. He brings hands-on experience to his current position, having served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Korn/Ferry from 2003-2007. Mr. Burnison joined Korn/Ferry as Chief Financial Officer in 2002.

Prior to Korn/Ferry, he was principal and chief financial officer of Guidance Solutions, a privately held consulting firm developing and supporting technology solutions, from 1999 to 2001.

Before Guidance Solutions, Mr. Burnison served as a senior executive officer and director of Jefferies & Company, Inc., the principal operating subsidiary of Jeffries Group, Inc., where he worked from 1995 to 1999. Earlier, he served as partner at KPMG Peat Marwick from 1984 to 1995.

In 2011, Mr. Burnison published The New York Times bestseller, No Fear of Failure: Real Stories of How Leaders Deal with Risk and Change – a book offering insightful conversations with some of the world’s top leaders in business, politics, education, and philanthropy. He is also a regular contributor to CNBC, CNN, Fox Business and other international news outlets.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California.

You can pick up a copy of Gary’s new book here, learn more about Korn/Ferry International here and you can connect with them on Linked In and Twitter here, here and here.

Thanks to Audringje for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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