Editor's Note: This is a new weekly column on leadership by Dr. Todd Thomas, who founded IMPACT Consulting and Development and previously led executive development at Daimler and organizational learning at Rockwell Avionics. This column appears Mondays in our "Don't Miss" section.

The 57% drop in adjusted profit for Borders ( BGP) in the first quarter of 2009 was "less worse" than expected, so the stocks jumped the next day to lead a rally on Wall Street.

Housing statistics have also encouraged the market, benefiting Home Depot ( HD), Lowe's ( LOW) and others in the home improvement business after the Fed announcement on housing starts was "less worse" than previously predicted.

Even the automakers (with the exception of General Motors ( GM)) saw improvement in their shares because sales declines were "less worse" than they were this time a few months ago.

This could really catch on. I'm writing this column right now sitting in a Caribou Coffee, where the coffee is less-worse than the coffee I make at home. Perhaps I could even start promoting myself as a "less worse" writer and speaker than many others!

In all seriousness, this talk about "less worse" is an important reflection on leadership. In the short-term, "less worse" is a reasonably encouraging statement to ignite some hope in a relatively hopeless market. And if nothing else, it contributes a positive string of dialogue into a media flow that has been nothing short of doomsday.

One of the great challenges in a short-term recovery will be to avoid a reversion back to a measure of success in purely financial terms. We've seen that much of the boom that led to this bust was all smoke and mirrors, in large part because leaders were not held accountable for the "whys" of their decisions and actions, only the financial outcomes. If we are looking for truly long-term sustainable results, leaders have to actually lead instead of worrying about how to label their results.

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