TIME Business

Stay Classy by Avoiding Ron Burgundy Syndrome

Executives who only look and sound the part risk being nothing more than talking heads, warns LinkedIn's CEO.

Many years ago, prior to joining LinkedIn, I attended an all-hands where a senior executive was addressing our team. The executive knew the company, was well-respected, and was an excellent public speaker — essentially all of the raw materials necessary to motivate the audience to take action.

On this particular day, the exec was rolling out a new way of thinking about the business. He detailed four new operating “pillars” for the company — all being added to several previously established operating priorities. Operators, in other words, now had to be focused on these additional dimensions when thinking about key initiatives. One of those new pillars was globalization. He wanted managers to develop products, services, and go-to market strategies with an international mindset from day one, and not as a reactive effort requiring expensive retrofits.

In theory, all of this was perfectly reasonable. The reality would prove otherwise.

About six months later, after little material progress had been made on our globalization efforts, the same executive asked me for candid feedback, wondering aloud why we had accomplished so little as an organization on this front despite the clarity of the message at that initial event. I responded with something akin to the following:

“We rolled out four new dimensions on top of seven previously communicated priorities, thus creating essentially 28 different initiatives. While the determination of the seven priorities was a highly collaborative effort, and subsequently well-received, none of the new dimensions and the implications of adding those to the priorities were previously socialized or vetted with the people responsible for executing them. There was no stack ranking of the pillars and their intersection with the priorities. There were no measurable objectives communicated that would enable us to track results. The overlay of the pillars created an entirely new set of inter-dependencies between teams, without any guidance on how to navigate those new relationships or time to create the right connective tissue. No additional process was put in place enabling us to report out on progress, identify blockers, and work together to resolve critical issues.

[Long pause, big smile]

What could possibly go wrong?”

In retrospect, I could have summarized the entire discussion by saying, “As a senior executive, just because you said it, doesn’t make it so.”

I have come back to this anecdote countless times since, not only sharing the experience with leaders on my team so that they can avoid similar outcomes, but constantly reminding myself of the same. It’s a hard lesson to learn. After all, as senior executives, most of us are wired to believe that if we say it, the team will just naturally execute it exactly as we had envisioned.

If management were only that simple.

We all need to be wary of avoiding the Ron Burgundy syndrome: On the surface, looking and sounding the part, but without providing the right discipline, focus, and ongoing context, appearing as nothing more than a talking head.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned to help prevent myself from falling into this all too familiar trap:

Repetition, repetition, repetition

As an adviser to four different Presidents of both parties, including Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen is widely recognized as a world-renown expert on the subject of effectively communicating key messages. In his book “Eyewitness to Power,” in which he chronicles his time spent in the White house, he wrote, “History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.”

A former colleague of mine described it this way: In order to effectively communicate to an audience, you need to repeat yourself so often that you grow sick of hearing yourself say it, and only then will people begin to internalize the message. It was an extremely valuable insight and one I’ve employed countless times since (repeating it so often, I now simply refer to the dynamic as “David Gergening” the message.)

Simplify the narrative

Simply put, we are the stories that we tell. When communicating important new messages, try thinking of it as introducing a new narrative. The simpler, more relevant, and more inspirational, the more likely it is to resonate with its intended audience.

Also, be aware of the number of objectives, priorities, themes, etc. that you’ve been communicating over time. With greater success comes greater scope and complexity. This will inevitably lead to a larger number of important narratives that need to be shared with the team. Yet, people can only grok so many things at once. Try consolidating. Even more importantly, periodically and systematically try taking things off the list (note, this is much easier said then done).

The fewer things you need to communicate, the more likely people will be to internalize the message, align themselves accordingly, and achieve success.

Explain the why

Regardless of how senior you are, and how much authority you wield, just saying it won’t magically make it happen. Your audience is busy (if not overwhelmed) by their own work. In order to get them to take notice, and far more importantly, change behavior, it’s essential you provide the context behind your message: Why is this particular initiative so important? Why is it a higher priority than what the team is currently working on? Why is it a better strategy than the one already in place?

After explaining, it’s equally critical that the team feels heard on the subject, particularly if they disagree. Seek to understand. By virtue of how close they are to the work, more often than not they’ll have a unique perspective that helps shape your own. The resulting conclusion will be that much more effective because you developed it together.

Eliminate the Rashomon Effect

Have you ever been in a meeting with four other people, thought you reached a shared conclusion and set of next steps, only to find later that all five of you left with a completely different understanding of what transpired? If so, you are not alone. Legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa popularized the concept in his film “Rashomon,” which told the story of a tragic event seen through the unique perspective of four different participants (the same film technique would later be used in countless other films and television shows).

The film captured a simple yet powerful tenet of human nature: We all have our own unique way of interpreting the events taking place around us. Understanding this dynamic is critical to ensuring the team is on the same page following important discussions. Specifically, after making an important point or communicating a key action item, try asking attendees to play back what they heard. If you’re not on the same page, make sure to course correct in real-time.

Also, ask someone to take notes at the meeting. The goal is not to capture every word, but rather to summarize, codify, and distribute key conclusions to ensure everyone in attendance (and ultimately those that didn’t attend but who are reliant on the information discussed) has a shared understanding of what was discussed and what’s expected going forward.

Make the team’s priority your own

We’re all familiar with the adage, “If you want something done you need to do it yourself.” While easy to pejoratively interpret as a rallying cry for micro-managers, it can also be positively applied to prioritizing the work yourself and leading from the front. Said another way, “If you want something done, you need to make it your own priority first.” When the team hears a particular initiative is important to you, and sees you spending the resources and managerial cycles to make it successful, more often than not they’ll follow your example.

Beware the last page of the power point deck

Be wary when that key theme you thought you had clearly prioritized repeatedly shows up as the last page of the power point deck. More often than not, it’s there to check a box and appease the person who asked for it, and not because the author believes it’s important. Same thing applies when asking for a specific date on a critical action item only to hear there is no set date, but “It’s on the road map.” These are tell-tale signs that you and the team are not on the same page regarding prioritization.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of these responses, rather than mistakenly assume the work is getting done, take the time to ask questions about where the disconnect is arising, re-align efforts, and ensure everyone is on the same page. If all goes well, six months later, you and the team will be celebrating a needle-moving win rather than trying to figure out what went wrong.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Jeff Weiner’s Influencer posts.

TIME Management & Leadership

Lessons From Lincoln: 5 Leadership Tips History And Science Agree On

USA, Washington D.C., Lincoln Memorial statue, close-up
Bill Heinsohn—Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln gets a lot of credit for being a great leader. And he deserves it, but…

Frankly, most of us don’t really know why he deserves it.

What made him such an extraordinary leader? And does modern research back up his methods?

Here’s what Honest Abe did, why it works and how it can make you a better leader.

1) Get Out Of The Office And Circulate Among The Troops

In 1861 Lincoln spent more time outside the White House than in it.

And it’s believed he met every single Union soldier who enlisted early in the Civil War.

How’s that for being an accessible leader?

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

As remarkable as it may seem, in 1861 Lincoln spent more time out of the White House than he did in it. And the chances are good that if a Union soldier had enlisted early in the Civil War, he saw the president in person. Lincoln made it a point to personally inspect every state regiment of volunteers that passed through Washington D.C., on their way to the front; and early in the war they all passed through Washington, D.C.

Lincoln knew people were his best source of information. And accessibility built trust. He spent 75% of the day meeting with people.

Lincoln had an open-door policy. Yeah, the President of the United States had an open-door policy.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

Lincoln was probably the most accessible chief executive the United States has ever known… John Nicolay and John Hay, his personal secretaries, reported that Lincoln spent 75 percent of his time meeting with people. No matter how busy the president was, he always seemed to find time for those who called on him.

Guess what? Modern business theory backs him up.

These days the management gurus call it “Managing by Wandering Around.” Seriously.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

…Lincoln revealed the cornerstone of his own personal leadership philosophy, an approach that would become part of a revolution in modern leadership thinking 100 years later when it was dubbed MBWA (Managing by Wandering Around) by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their 1982 book In Search Of Excellence.

Lincoln was always trying to get the best information so he could make good decisions.

He was constantly emailing and texting on his iPhone… Umm, well, the 19th century equivalent of it, at least.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

He virtually lived at the War Department’s telegraph office so he could gain access to key information for quick, timely decisions.

What do CEO’s of the modern era still spend much of their time doing?

The exact same thing Lincoln did: trying to get the information they need to make good decisions.

Via John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do:

The GMs do not limit their focus to planning, business strategy, staffing, and other “top management concerns.” They discuss virtually anything and everything even remotely associated with their businesses and organizations…. In these conversations, GMs typically ask a lot of questions. In a half-hour conversation, some will ask literally hundreds.

(More on what all great leaders have in common here.)

2) Persuade Rather Than Coerce

Despite having the power of the presidency, Lincoln didn’t strongarm people; he persuaded them. How did he do it?

He made them his friends. He made them like him. Here’s Lincoln talking about his methods:

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a “drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find by little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.

And it shows in the way he handled subordinates.

He didn’t give orders — he made requests. Look at his letters:

To McClellan (10-13-63): “…This letter is in no sense an order.”

To Halleck (9-19-63): “I hope you will consider it…”

To Burnside (9-27-63): “It was suggested to you, not ordered…”

Does the modern research agree? Oh yeah.

What’s the #1 thing Harvard Business School teaches it’s MBA students about negotiation?

“They need to like you.”

About 3:30 into the video below:

Here’s the equation for getting what you want. Cutting to the chase: You want to get more. You want more money, a better offer, a better deal; here are the components of what you need to do. First, they need to like you. That’s the first component. The things you do that make them like you less make it less likely that you are going to get what you want…

From my interview with Bob: Liking is one of fundamental principles that leading persuasion expert Robert Cialdini’s detailed in his classic book, Influence.

No surprise that people prefer to say yes to a request to the degree that they know and like the requester. A simple way to make things happen in your direction is to uncover genuine similarities or parallels that exist between you and the person you want to influence, and then raise them to the surface. That increases rapport.

Lincoln has a famous quote on the subject:

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.

(Learn the methods hostage negotiators use to bond with hostage takers here.)

3) Lead By Being Led

Lincoln always gave credit where credit was due and took responsibility when things went wrong.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

Not only did this satisfy Lincoln’s need for honesty, integrity and human dignity; it also gave his subordinates the correct perception that they were, in many ways, doing the leading, not Lincoln. If nothing else, it made them feel good about their jobs. It also encouraged innovation and risk taking because they knew that if they failed, Lincoln would not blame them.

By doing this he dodged what Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda says is the most common leadership mistake: hubris.

Lincoln had no problem saying he screwed up, like in this letter to General Ulysses S. Grant:

I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you reached the vicinity of Vicksburg… I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I that the expedition could succeed… I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was wrong.

He trusted the judgment of the people who were on the front lines. This is one of the hallmarks of good military leadership.

Looking at the research, what type of leadership works in the toughest situations?

Lincoln’s method: being democratic and listening.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

During the early 1960s, the Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit (now the Naval Health Research Center) conducted a series of studies concerning leadership at small Antarctic stations. In that research program, Nelson (1962) found that esteemed leaders tended to possess a relatively democratic leadership orientation and a leadership style characterized by greater participation in activities than traditional for a military organization. Further, the esteemed leaders developed individual relationships with each of their crew members and reportedly sought the opinions of individual crew members about issues directly concerning them.

Leaders take note: research shows that not worrying about who gets the credit for an idea is key to influencing people.

And the greatest minds of history agree. As Lao Tzu said:

Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say “We did this ourselves.”

(Learn what type of leader you are here.)

4) Encourage Innovation

Lots of lip service is paid to encouraging innovation these days. What did Lincoln know about innovating?

Well, he’s the only U.S. President to ever patent something.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

Years before assuming the presidency, Lincoln had shown his interest in innovation when, on March 10, 1849 (at age forty), he received a patent for a new method of making grounded boats more buoyant.

What does it take to increase creativity and innovation in an organization? As I’ve said before, it’s pretty straightforward:

Reward people for trying new things and don’t punish them for failure.

Lincoln knew this.

Via Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times:

And even during his most difficult times, Lincoln continued to call on his subordinates to screen new advances, implement ideas, and win while learning. He realized that, as an executive leader, it was his chief responsibility to create the climate of risk-free entrepreneurship necessary to foster effective innovation.

(More on the single most proven way to innovate here.)

5) Influence People Through Storytelling

By all accounts, Lincoln was a great storyteller and he actively leveraged this skill to win people over.

Lincoln himself said it plainly:

They say I tell a great many stories. I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way…

And research from Stanford backs him up.

Facts and statistics are great but when people hear presentations what do they remember? The stories.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63 percent remember the stories. Only 5 percent remember any individual statistic.

If you’re a leader as Lincoln was, you need to know what studies show inspires team morale. And the answer is great stories:

“Institutions that can communicate a compelling historical narrative often inspire a special kind of commitment among employees. It is this dedication that directly affects a company’s success and is critical to creating a strong corporate legacy,” said author Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan professor of ethics and decision in management.

As I’ve posted many times, storytelling can improve almost every area of your life. Why is storytelling so powerful?

Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker has done research showing stories are key to our sense of meaning:

Some new studies suggest if we spend time thinking about stories in our lives, that might be a more effective way of figuring out what is meaningful versus not.

(More on how to tell great stories from a UCLA film school professor here.)

Sum Up

Leadership lessons you can learn from Lincoln:

  1. Get Out Of The Office And Circulate Among The Troops
  2. Persuade Rather Than Coerce
  3. Lead By Being Led
  4. Encourage Innovation
  5. Influence People Through Storytelling

There’s a lot to learn from Lincoln.

And people didn’t just love Honest Abe because he was a wise leader; he also had a good sense of humor:

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

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Related posts:

10 Things The Greatest Leaders All Have In Common

Lessons From The Samurai: The Secret To Always Being At Your Best

8 Things The World’s Most Successful People All Have In Common

TIME feminism

How Women Are Reshaping the Defense Industry

Rep Kay Granger (R-TEX)
Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger, R-Tex., listens as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., before the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Feb. 29, 2012. Mary F. Calve—MCT/Getty Images

The defense industry is facing unprecedented challenges, with the help of a new group of women leaders.

Women currently hold a little over four percent of the Fortune 500 CEO positions. However, in the defense industry, women are at the helm of 50 percent of the largest firms. Although women are hardly new to the industry, they are moving rapidly into the top jobs, and in the process melting away the defense industry’s male-dominated image.

As the vice chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, a subcommittee I have served on for eight years, and the chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, which I have been at the helm of for the last six years, I have witnessed the transition, and seen the challenges, firsthand as more women serve as leaders within the defense community.

The defense industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Yet, with the help of a new group of women leaders, solutions to the defense industry’s challenges are being advanced, and in the process the future of our national security is being shaped and secured.

For years, Della Williams, a constituent of mine, was one of just a handful of women defense industry executives. She started the company Williams R.D.M., formerly known as Williams Pyro, in 1963. Williams R.D.M is a defense contracting firm with more than 100 employees. While she has overseen tremendous growth of her company, establishing a positive name for her business did not prove to be an obstacle-free endeavor for Williams. She founded her company at a time when women’s roles in the workforce were only beginning to change, and she dealt with her share of gender-related challenges early on.

Back then, and even today, women in the workforce often feel they are not listened to. Instead of letting this serve as an obstacle, women have turned it into a strength by becoming better listeners themselves and in the process stronger leaders. This trait becomes very important when you have management-union issues, for instance. It also leads to more win-win decisions and less ego driven results.

Fifty years ago, most engineers were men, and when they picked up the phone to call Williams Pyro, they expected to speak with a male counterpart on the other end. When they heard Della Williams’ voice on the line, many of them were skeptical of whether she could help them. To the skeptics, Williams would say, “Try me.” If she couldn’t help them, they were no worse off than before they called — but that was rarely the case.

Like most executives, earning a good reputation and rapport with customers and other industry leaders didn’t come without Williams spending a lot of time at work. Unfortunately for her, as a woman, the idea of balancing work and family would inevitably come up. She felt a duty to her employees, their families and her customers, so there were many nights when Williams remained at work instead of going home. She was so devoted to the success of Williams Pyro that she even returned to work four days after having her third child during the full-scale development of Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

Similarly to Williams, Marillyn Hewson, who now serves as the chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin, has shown herself to be an exceptional leader in the industry. Her employment at Lockheed began in the early 1980s, and she has since served in 18 different leadership positions. She claims she climbed the ladder at Lockheed because of her self-reliance, which she learned from her family growing up. Her father died when she was nine, and her mother was left to raise five children as a single mother. This tragedy taught her not only self-reliance, but to be responsible for her own personal successes or failures.

In November 2012, Hewson became Lockheed’s CEO because the corporate leadership and the board of directors recognized her talent, and because she was known for never holding back when given an opportunity.

When she took over the top job, the Joint Strike Fighter program was uncertain, and even the smallest mistakes made were amplified by the media. The Joint Strike Fighter is unique in the world, but has had continuing problems with the Pentagon. There was a real lack of partnering that changed almost immediately when Marilyn took over. The conversation changed as did the attitude. Decisions were made that had been delayed for months.

Women tend to be problem solvers by nature. In many cases, that trait becomes more important than having a particular title, their name on the door or the highest salary, but this can also work to their detriment and make it take longer to reach the top.

To combat problems with the Joint Strike Fighter program, Hewson appointed Lorraine Martin as the program’s general manager in April 2013. As a result of Hewson and Martin’s work, criticism of the program has been significantly reduced. These women achieved this outcome by bringing authenticity to the table and rebuilding the program’s credibility. Rather than tucking away the company’s previous errors, they acknowledged them. They supported contract incentives that now hold Lockheed accountable and pushed the company to make the aircraft for less money.

At General Dynamics, Phebe Novakovic earned a similar reputation for authenticity within her first weeks as CEO. When the company’s $2 billion loss first hit the news on January 23, 2013, General Dynamics’ stock price fell by more than five percent within a span of a few hours. Rather than whitewashing the situation, Novakovic spoke candidly about the problems at hand and emphasized measures that were going to be taken to fix them. Her honesty caught the attention of Wall Street, and it responded. By the end of the day, General Dynamics’ stock rose 50 cents higher than the previous day.

Through using their instincts of honesty and authenticity, these women made it to the top of their industry — even when they were sometimes the only women in the room. Linda Hudson, CEO of B.A.E., also understands the feeling of being alone in a room full of men. As the first female CEO of a major defense company, she has played a critical role in changing a culture that has traditionally been closed to women. Although the market was starting to sour when Hudson took over at B.A.E. in October 2009, Hudson successfully reversed the negative opinions that were out there. She streamlined the company, better integrated the two dozen businesses that B.A.E. had cobbled together through acquisitions, and cut costs as the market demanded.

Hudson, Williams, Hewson, Novakovic and other women leaders in the defense industry are meeting and exceeding demands for better management during this time of fiscal restraint. They are proving that one’s gender doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do with the opportunities given to you. In the process, they are shaping the world.

Congresswoman Kay Granger represents the 12th District of Texas. She is the Chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations.

TIME Management & Leadership

The One Thing Business Schools Need to Start Teaching

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If you ask 20 random grads to explain why they went to business school, a large majority will list networking as one of the top reasons. Makes sense, too, since the connections one makes in b-school can be useful down the road in finding jobs and excelling at them. Which is why it’s all the more curious that if you comb through the course curriculum of 20 random business schools, you’d be hard-pressed to turn up more than a handful that actually teach their students how to network.

I was prompted to try both experiments recently after reading an article by David Kahn, chief revenue honcho at the Wall Street Journal Office Network, bemoaning the fact that most businesses do a poor job teaching their employees how to network, especially those workers who are not directly connected to obvious revenue-generation functions. As Kahn writes:

“Sure, many companies, firms and agencies offer workshops on presentation skills, closing strategies, storytelling and the like. But these are sales tactics, not networking ones. And yes, many encourage staffers to attend conferences and other industry gatherings, if for no other reason than to collect business cards. But such efforts are Networking 0.5, as relevant to accumulating real relationship capital as tenth grade Home Ec is to becoming a Michelin chef.”

This is a serious oversight, Kahn explains:

“The instincts, skills and strategies necessary to build a vibrant and productive professional web of contacts are varied, complex and by no means natural to most people, even ‘natural salespeople.’”

For the very same reasons, most business schools should be taken to task for their inability or unwillingness to recognize the importance that networking will assume in the professional lives of their graduates. “At all levels of higher education, graduate and undergraduate, most schools do an incredibly poor job of teaching networking skills in any formal or practical way,” says Ivan Misner, author of several books on the subject. “It’s extraordinarily rare.”

But by any name—”networking,” “relationship capital,” “social capital”—the sum and substance of one’s connections and networks has value far beyond job searches. They are integral to all sorts of organizational priorities—not only sales, but also recruiting, lobbying and various types of “sourcing,” from partnerships to acquisition targets to industry experts.

A few business schools take networking seriously—most notably the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School, where management professor Wayne Baker has established himself as one of the gurus of the subject. (“There’s a lot of untapped potential in companies,” Baker contends.) And a growing number of his academic peers have started to research social networks from a variety of angles. But most b-schools and pretty much all undergraduate institutions ignore networking as a discipline entirely or give it passing attention in modules embedded in broader leadership or management sections.

Why? For two primary reasons. First, the idea of trading on one’s personal relationships for professional gain continues to strike some academics as unseemly. (LinkedIn, Relationship Science and Facebook be damned!) “Networking still has something of a bad reputation to some,” Baker says.

Second, even those who understand and value relationship capital’s role in commerce often think of it as a collections of so-called soft skills, with which some small percentage of fortunate folks were born and the rest of humankind can only admire. But while there’s truth in the first notion, the second is just plain wrong. Networking, Bakers says, “is a learnable skill.”

Which means it can be taught. As Kahn writes,

“… reciprocity, mapping relationships, intuiting the self-interest of others, prioritizing conflicting needs, professional matchmaking, normalizing agenda-free but genuine communication—these are the building blocks of robust relationship capital.”

They are also the building blocks of engaging, practical and valuable course syllabi. Let’s hope more schools—at all levels of higher education—start teaching from them.

TIME Management & Leadership

Bill Gates Is The Richest Man in the World (Again)

Bill Gates Lobbies Australia For Increased Overseas Aid Funding
Stefan Postles—Getty Images

The Microsoft founder reclaims his spot on top of Forbes' billionaires list

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has reclaimed his spot as the richest man in the world, according to Forbes’ annual list of billionaires.

Gates’ net worth is now $76 billion, according to Forbes, having risen $9 billion in the last year. Gates bumped Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim Helu off the top spot, which Gates has held for 15 of the last 20 years.

Forbes calculates that there are 1,645 billionaires in total around the world.

[Forbes]

TIME Management & Leadership

Social Media Is Making You Stupid

Pictures appear on the smartphone sharing application Instagram.
Pictures appear on the smartphone sharing application Instagram. Thomas Coex—AFP/Getty Images

But there's some good news


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Social media, we all know, can make you unproductive. If you’re indiscreet or offensive, it can complicate your relationships. But can it also make you downright dumb?

That’s what a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface suggests. How can spending more time on Facebook or Twitter end up making us stupider?

It’s not just that all those hours clicking crops in Farmville and the like simply represnts time that could be spent, say, reading a book and actually learning something. The greater problem seems to be the human tendency to copy others.

Can You Copycat Your Way to Intelligence?

To come to this conclusion, the scientists created five artificial social networks made up of volunteers. Some connected their members in a tight net, where everyone was in contact with everyone else. Others kept the participants more separate. They then tasked the participants with answering a tricky set of brainteasers. Were those who were more socially connected more or less likely to figure out the right answers?

In the short term, more connections yielded more right answers, but not because members were learning. Nope, they were just stealing.

“The researchers found that in well connected networks volunteers…got better at giving the right answer the more times they were asked and the more opportunities they had to steal their neighbours’ answers,” Phys.org reports. “This result showed that when the students had lots of connections to peers they could recognise where they had given a wrong answer and swap it for the right one.”

But did copying smarter social connections improve participants’ ability to figure out the answers independently? In short, no. Given a fresh question, the copycats performed no better than when they first joined the social network.

The Good News–and the Bad

The results offer encouragement for both fans and critics of social networks. If you look at things on the group level, there is reason for cheer. “Being able to copy from other people in vast networks means analytical responses rapidly spread, fulfilling their promise of improved decision-making for well-connected people,” says Phys.org.

But for individuals, the implications are less positive. Social networking probably isn’t making you smarter. In fact, it could be making you dumber by supplying answers and insights without requiring any actual thinking, so that your analytic powers begin to waste away like an unused muscle.

Or as the research team puts it: “On the other hand, the bias may very well decrease the frequency of analytical reasoning by making it easy and commonplace for people to reach analytical response without engaging analytical processing.” In the long-term, they warn, “increased connectivity may eventually make us stupid by making us smarter first.”

Read more from Inc.com:
How 4 Entrepreneurs Started Up (Really) Young
Firing an Employee–Even a Bad One–Is Hard to Do

TIME The Drucker Difference

Coming Soon to Your Office: Gen Z

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As a business consultant and management professor, Peter Drucker observed the attitudes and idiosyncrasies of seven distinct generations: New Worlders, Hard Timers, Good Warriors, the Lucky Few, Baby Boomers, Gen X and even, at the very end of his life, Gen Y. But it’s Gen Z, I believe, that would draw most of Drucker’s interest now.

A new study of this cohort—17 years old and younger—suggests that when it comes to thinking about work, these teens are poised to greatly accelerate certain trends that Drucker had anticipated with a mix of hopefulness and concern. And employers better start preparing for them now.

Although many companies are struggling to integrate millennials into the workplace, “what we’re also seeing right on their tail is another tsunami, potentially just as disruptive,” says Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer at the Intelligence Group, a division of the Creative Artists Agency, which undertook the analysis with an assist from the early-career networking site Intern Sushi. The likelihood of this enormous impact, she notes, has emerged despite the fact that Gen Y, at about 90 million strong in the United States, is nearly twice as big as Gen Z.

Several results in particular grabbed my attention—and undoubtedly would have grabbed Drucker’s.

For starters, 60% of the 14- to 18-year-olds surveyed last April, as part a larger sample of 900 people who responded online, said that “having an impact on the world” is going to be important to them in their jobs. That’s a sharp increase from the 39% of millennials who expressed this sentiment in 2010, when they were in the same age range.

That more and more students are intent on making a real difference with their lives is something that Drucker started to pick up on decades ago—and he advised organizations to seize the opportunity. “Instead of bemoaning that young people are lazy or self-centered,” Drucker remarked in 1989, executives should ask, “‘What do they have?’ They have a tremendous desire to contribute.”

The question now is how they can best be positioned to make good on that desire.

For members of Gen Z themselves, the answer seems to lie in the second significant finding from the Intelligence Group report: They’re bent on accumulating real-world experience, even if this means foregoing a part of their formal education. In 2010, 71% of millennial teens considered earning an advanced degree as one of their life goals. By 2013, that number had fallen to 64% for Gen Z teens.

Also telling: Fifty percent of Gen Y teens in 2010 said they wished they had a hobby that would turn into full-time job. Among Gen Z teens, that has soared to 76%.

“There really are a lot of these younger kids who are figuring out much earlier on what they want to do,” says Shara Senderoff, the co-founder and chief executive of Intern Sushi, which set out a couple of years ago to reinvent how students apply for internships (“the new entry-level job,” in Senderoff’s words) by giving them a platform to tell their stories in more creative ways.

Senderoff and Gutfreund say that this inclination to dive quickly into a work setting, and spend less time in the classroom as well as on frivolous outside pursuits, makes perfect sense in the wake of endless stories about unemployed and underemployed college grads, and anxiety over accumulating mountains of student-loan debt.

Drucker surely wouldn’t have advocated that people get less education at a time when knowledge has become our most vital resource. What’s more, as I’ve made plain, there is overwhelming statistical evidence that a college degree is still the best investment that a young person can make.

Yet what form someone’s ongoing education might take isn’t at all a given. “In the knowledge society, clearly, more and more knowledge, and especially advanced knowledge, will be acquired well past the age of formal schooling and increasingly, perhaps, through educational processes that do not center on the traditional school,” Drucker wrote.

For employers hoping one day to recruit and retain the cream of Gen Z, a real chance exists to develop a whole new model of lifelong learning—a combination of hands-on experience, training and mentoring.

There are risks. Drucker worried, for instance, about tilting too far in the direction of doing. We may “overvalue immediately usable, ‘practical’ knowledge and underrate the importance of fundamentals, and of wisdom altogether,” he warned.

He also would have stressed that it’s not only up to employers to embrace new ways of judging talent and keeping them satisfied; young employees and would-be employees have obligations, as well.

“The decision ‘What should my contribution be?’ . . . balances three elements,” Drucker explained. “First comes the question: ‘What does the situation require?’ Then comes the question: ‘How could I make the greatest contribution with my strengths, my way of performing, my values to what needs to be done?’ Finally, there is the question: ‘What results have to be achieved to make a difference.’”

Drucker, who was born in Austria in 1909, immigrated to America in 1937 and delivered his final university lecture just months before his death in 2005, pointed out that his was the last generation of people in business “who measured their value entirely by experience” instead of by the amount of their education and knowledge.

No one is saying that we’re destined to return entirely to that earlier convention. But it’s fitting somehow that experience may again count for more, now that we’ve reached Z.

TIME The Drucker Difference

McDonald’s Needs a ‘Miracle’ Like the Pretzel Bun

Wendy's hamburger has become more popular than McDonald's.
Paul Vernon / AP

Alas, McDonald’s has been out-bunned.

The hamburger giant and rival Wendy’s have taken different approaches to their businesses in recent years, and Wendy’s has prospered while McDonald’s, lately, has stumbled. Why?

Evidently, things have gotten too complicated on the McDonald’s menu. “We need to do fewer products with better execution,” said the company’s chief operating officer, Tim Fenton.

Tom Gara of The Wall Street Journal concurs, finding McDonald’s guilty of “firing multiple shots in all directions” and overwhelming customers and franchisees with “chicken wings, fish nuggets, bacon habanero ranch burgers and a line of wraps, among many other things.” By contrast, Wendy’s “doubled down on its core burger lineup and introduced a very successful twist: the pretzel bun.”

So, Gara asked, “Is it better to be a cunning player of many games, or a highly focused one-trick pony?”

Actually, it depends. (Sorry, it just does.) As we’ve pointed out, Peter Drucker stressed the importance of focus, of avoiding product clutter and of keeping innovation simple. Still, while McDonald’s miscalculated, that doesn’t mean that it was being foolhardy.

Adding food items to a restaurant menu isn’t terribly drastic, after all. And, as Drucker noted in Managing for Results, “The odds against any new product’s becoming even a moderate success are roughly five to one, and the odds against it becoming a smash hit are 100 to one.” So, failing the miracle pretzel bun, you’ve got to try a few things.

What’s more, McDonald’s is in many respects what Drucker called a “creative imitator,” an entrepreneur that “does not invent a product or service” but rather “perfects and positions it” through effective marketing and management. With creative imitators, Drucker explained, the requirements are for “alertness, for flexibility, and . . . for hard work and massive efforts”—all of which McDonald’s has put forth.

However, creative imitators also have vulnerabilities. “Creative imitators are easily tempted to splinter their efforts in the attempt to hedge their bets,” Drucker warned. “Another danger is to misread the trend and imitate creatively what then turns out not to be the winning development in the marketplace.”

That apparently includes the bacon habanero ranch burger.

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