Photo of Howard Haas
The late Howard Haas, former Sealy CEO and adjunct professor of strategic management at Booth, teaching in the Executive Education High Performance Leadership Program, at the Gleacher Center, November 6, 2013. Photograph courtesy of Patricia LaMalfa.

Haas Rules

The late faculty member’s Leadership in Practice course helped students bridge the crucial “knowing-doing gap.”

Howard Haas, who passed away in June, was the CEO of Sealy for 19 years, after which he joined the adjunct faculty at Chicago Booth in 1988. He developed the Leadership in Practice course because the existing literature on leadership did not correspond to his actual experience of leading a business.

Haas coauthored The Leader Within: An Empowering Path of Self-Discovery in 1993. Drawn from a 2007 interview with CBM, here are Haas’s essentials for a good leader, in his own words:

  • Technical competence, because you have to demonstrate exceptional proficiency in at least one area.
  • Competence in listening to and communicating with people.
  • Conceptual skills, meaning the ability to cut to the heart of complex issues.
  • A good perspective on your own life, because if you can understand the context you’re operating in, you can project yourself into a more rational and predictable future.
  • Good judgment and good character, because people will look at you through a magnifying glass for every flaw, and you’ve got to be beyond reproach.
  • Optimism, because you need to be the purveyor of hope, and you have to believe in a vision for the organization even when you aren’t completely certain that it’s the right one.
  • The ability to provide balance, because if you have a favorite group, your strength will be diminished.
  • Belief in a vision, the power of change, and the willingness to take risks to get there.

—By Rebecca Rolfes