The Leadership Failure of Mohamed Morsi: Will Your Workers Revolt, Too?

The removal of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s President is a poignant reminder of the difficulty in satisfying the myriad demands of disparate segments of a society or organization. While Mr. Morsi was a democratically elected leader of a country, his failure can provide many lessons for those of us who work in business and non-profit organizations.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

In a nutshell, Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party put personal agendas before the common goal of repairing and building a flourishing Egyptian government and society. He failed to rebuild the Egyptian infrastructure, leaving the economy struggling with high prices for food, gasoline, and other commodities. He and others in his party grabbed power by ramming an unpopular religiously tainted constitution down the throat of the Egyptian people and appointing Islamist officials to as many posts as possible.

Eventually the Egyptian people and military had enough and took to the streets and once again violence has ensued. Let’s take a look at what lessons we can glean from this experience to help us lead our organizations.

In my experience, the best leaders put the organization first and set aside their egos and personal agendas. Jim collins does an excellent job elaborating on this in his well-researched book Good to Great. In his words, a Level 5 leader “Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” You could begin by keeping a journal of your daily activities and noting which activities are moving you closer to your team and organizational goals, and which activities are moving you toward personal goals. You may also find that some activities are taking you nowhere, which would be helpful to know.

The second lesson we can find is how important it is to provide an adequate infrastructure so that a team may flourish and excel—to use their talent to its fullest extent. The Egyptian economy is in shambles, which cripples all businesses from tourism to technology. Are you providing the necessary equipment and financial resources for your team? Have you asked what they need lately?

Finally, pay attention to all of the groups within your organization, whether these be types of workers, individuals at all levels in the organization, all facets of the organization such as marketing, development, production, or ethnic and gender groups. Each group will bring a somewhat unique perspective to your business and may provide a profound insight that propels you forward. One of the mantras I continue to recite is “Respect Everyone.” If we genuinely come from this attitude our team members will see it for what it is—a genuine interest and concern for each individual and group.

Bringing groups together which have widely divergent views and interests is difficult and requires a skilled leader. The key point is to continue focusing on the goals and vision of the team and organization. Use these as the focal point instead of the differences in views. Ask how the different views can help achieve the goal, thus building synergy to create exceptional solutions to problems.

In summary, I believe the lessons from the failure of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood party are:

  • Set your personal agenda aside and focus on the greater goals of the organization and your team,
  • Provide an adequate infrastructure for your team so that they may flourish and utilize their talents to their fullest extent, and
  • Remain attentive to all groups within your organization.

Keywords: leadership development, leadership lessons, Egypt, Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood


  • Al Jazeera. (2013, July 3) Profile: Mohamed Morsi. Al Jazeera. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
  • Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap. and others don’t. New York: Collins.
  • Daragahi, B. & Saleh, H. (2013, July 5). Egypt: The second revolution. Financial Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
  • Khalaf, R. (2013, July 4). Morsi’s downfall will entrench Brotherhood’s sense of victimhood. Financial Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
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SpaceX Checks its Ego at the Door

As I write this the SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) Falcon 9 rocket has blasted into space, carrying the Dragon spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of cargo. This milestone marks a new era in private as opposed to government space flight. While a significant portion of the program funding comes from NASA and therefore could be considered government funded, two important points would be missed if we apply such a broad brush.

Falcon 9 Launch May 22, 2012

As a leader our ego sometimes gets the better of us. We begin to believe that we and our team can deliver new products or services without the help of others. Such an attitude frequently ends in failure and a veritable crawl back to those who offered help in the first place.

The collaboration of SpaceX with NASA has been shown to provide tangible benefits in terms of development time and cost. While SpaceX has taken a fresh approach to rocket and spacecraft design they have hired and collaborated with NASA engineers to design and produce highly reliable and much lower cost equipment. This collaboration has created the best of two worlds—the fresh, pristine design team and the legacy team learning from the vast knowledge of successful and failed missions.

In order to make this collaboration work the SpaceX management and design team had to set their ego aside and embrace the NASA voice of wisdom. My work with clients has revealed many a time when individuals feel they can go it alone to achieve their goals. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes not. I find it helpful to strike a balance between receiving and utilizing sage advice versus allowing your team to become bogged down with too many opinions.

I believe the second lesson here is one of minimizing bureaucracy. In general, as organizations mature they continually learn from mistakes and implement a multiplicity of checks and balances. At some point the organization becomes overly cautious and new, more nimble competitors swoop in to take market share with clever innovations.

As you observe this taking place in your organization you have a couple of options: either allow the bureaucracy to slowly build and then destroy it and build anew or continually hack away at the bureaucracy and agree to take on a measured amount of risk.

So when you find yourself turning down offers of help ask yourself if your ego is popping up. Continually assess your processes to ensure you have not become too bureaucratic. After all, this is rocket science and you want to do the best you can.


  • Allow your ego to step aside and ask yourself where the help of others might improve your team’s performance
  • Take a fresh look, from the ground up, what business processes are absolutely necessary for your team to meet its goals

Keywords: leadership, ego, bureaucracy

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Sears: A Fallen Giant

Last week Sears reported that it will close up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores. I found it to be another sad chapter in the story of a fallen giant. For me, Sears is akin to a giant sequoia tree—a mammoth, standing stable generation after generation. Unfortunately the retailer continues to erode its foundation a bit almost every year.

Let’s travel back in time for a moment. Many of you may not be aware that in the late 1950s to early 1980s considerable work on employee selection took place, primarily at Standard Oil Company, AT&T, and Sears. These organizations spent considerable time and money to determine how to select individuals most likely to be successful in their organizations. V. J. Bentz and L. L. Thurstone pioneered the efforts at Sears. Those studies became the basis for today’s selection instruments. Their efforts paid off.

Sears was the big Kahuna of retail. But it didn’t last as complacency and arrogance set in. Arrogance can blind you to new competitors, and I’ll give you a personal example. Many years ago I gave a presentation to a company regarding technology industry customer support. I listed WordPerfect (remember them?) and PCs Limited as exemplars. Before I could move past the slide one of the executives couldn’t pass up the chance to sneer at the name PCs Limited. “Who are those guys? They’re nothing.” was the comment. My retort was a simple, “Well, they may be nothing today but if they keep up the good service they’ll be something some day.” We do know them today—Dell. And the company I was presenting to, well, I’ll withhold comment.

Sears failed to adapt to changing market conditions as specialty retailers and big box stores left them in the dust. While Sears continues to be a strong retailer (number 10 last year) those with superior market strategies have prevailed.

• Use well-validated employee selection methods
• Remain adaptable to market conditions
• Never, ever become complacent or arrogant—maintain a healthy fear of competitors

Keywords: leadership, employee selection, complacency, adaptability

• Bentz, V. J. (1967). The Sears experience in the investigation, description, and prediction of executive behavior. In F. R. Wickert & D. E. McFarland (Eds.), Measuring executive effectiveness (pp. 147-205). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
• Bentz, V. J. (1968). The Sears experience in the investigation, description, and prediction of executive behavior. In J. A. Myers (Ed.), Predicting managerial success (pp. 59-152). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Foundation for Research on Human Behavior.
• Bentz, V. J. (1985). Research findings from personality assessment of executives. In J. H. Bernardin & D. A. Bownas (Eds.), Personality assessment in organizations (pp. 82–144). New York: Praeger Publishers.
• Bentz, V. J. (1990). Contextual issues in predicting high-level leadership performance: Contextual richness as a criterion consideration in personality research with executives. In K. E. Clark & M. B. Clark (Eds.), Measures of leadership (pp. 131-143). West Orange, NJ: Leadership Library of America, Inc.
• Bray, D. W. (1968). Choosing good managers. In J. A. Myers (Ed.), Predicting managerial success (pp. 153-165). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Foundation for Research on Human Behavior.
• Bray, D. W., Campbell, R. J., & Grant, D. L. (1974). Formative years in business: A long-term AT&T study of managerial lives. New York: Wiley-Interscience.
• Sparks, C. P. (1970). Validity of psychological tests. Personnel Psychology, 23(1), 39–46.
• Sparks, C. P. (1983). Paper and pencil measures of potential. In G. F. Dreher & P. R. Sackett (Eds.), Perspectives on employee staffing and selection (pp. 349–368). Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. irwin, Inc.
• Sparks, C. P. (1990). Testing for management potential. In K. E. Clark & M. B. Clark (Eds.), Measures of leadership (pp. 103-112).

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