Leading and Succeeding When Every Eye Is on You

By Jay Hooley, State Street chairman, president and chief executive

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On the precipice of the three-year anniversary of Dodd-Frank and amid Senate discussions around weakening some of its reforms, it's important to bear in mind that every financial shock is followed by a period of finger pointing, hand wringing, chest thumping and hindsight.

But when you are a leader whose organization and industry have come under heightened scrutiny, hindsight is a luxury that time will not allow. You're expected to act quickly, and your actions will be held to the highest of standards.

For CEOs, this means all eyes will be on you, and every one of your stakeholders -- from your investors to your employees -- will expect you to exhibit the power and endurance of an Olympian while demonstrating the integrity and leadership expected of all leaders.

Your every action will determine if your team draws the right lessons from the turmoil you've experienced and if you can successfully steer your company through any fallout. Doing this isn't always easy, but the right strategies can help you improve the outcomes.

Go Flat

Today's top leaders have already learned the lessons of Thomas Friedman's book "The World Is Flat." They've built businesses that are capable of quickly disseminating information, people and tools across geographic and organizational boundaries. By "going flat," these managers are able to rapidly tap the intelligence of diverse groups to quickly solve complex problems. They're able to bring together the far-ranging insights that suggest near-term solutions and alternatives. Good leaders go where they need to go.

Race with the Machines

In their new book, "Race Against the Machine," Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee retell the legend of John Henry, the hero of the Industrial Revolution whose heart burst after his triumphant race against the steam drill.

The legend points to a clear lesson: Technological innovation is ceaseless and, as the authors write, "economic progress comes from constant innovation in which people race with machines. Human and machine collaborate together in a race to produce more, to capture markets and to beat other teams of humans and machines."

Today's "do more with less" value chain will not allow for endless research and development without measurable deliverables. You'll need more than one path to victory, and you'll need the technology to help find those paths.

Character Counts

It's a simple but important truth: We are more understanding and patient with people we know are trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. One of the key lessons of leadership is that character counts. It touches every element of an organization and it inspires trust.

As a leader, your action must serve as a model to your employees and a beacon to your shareholders. At the end of the day, it's not how you act when you're under scrutiny that matters, it's how you act when you aren't under the microscope.

Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism, offers advice that every leader should take to heart: "Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

Grace Under Pressure

The best leaders learn, over time, that achieving peak performance in high-stakes situations is an ability that can be learned through practice. When they have been pushed beyond what they thought were their own limits, countless professionals -- from heart surgeons to Olympic athletes to first responders -- dig deep and tap inner reserves of resolve developed through years of training, hard work and experience.

Peak performance demands practice. That's why the very best leaders push themselves, spend hours honing their skills and find mentors who expect nothing but the best.

Managing under the microscope isn't easy, but it can be done. It means finding the right teams to solve complex problems and create the evolutionary work structures that enable fast innovation.

Whether you are managing high-stake negotiations or navigating the technological or regulatory changes, your decisions will face scrutiny. Great leaders are able to transform these high-pressure moments into opportunities to build their organizations.

Jay Hooley is chairman, president and chief executive of State Street Corp. (STT), a leading provider of financial services to institutional investors, with $25.4 trillion in assets under custody and administration, and $2.2 trillion in assets under management as of March 31. He joined the company in 1986, became president in 2008, CEO in 2010 and chairman in 2011.

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