Coca Cola Leadership

Sometimes Empowerment needs to be infused with a heavy dose of compassion and guidance.

Source: Lessons on Leadership: The 7 Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at all Levels

Jack Stahl was the President of Coca-Cola between 1978 and 2000. Early in Stahl’s career, his mentor, CEO Doug Ivester, asked him to prepare a document for the public stock offer of CocaCola’s bottling division. Stahl immediately delegated the project, unfortunately without adequate oversight. When Ivester asked for an early draft for an important deadline, Stahl found the draft was woefully incomplete.

If you were Ivester, would you:
a. Fire or demote Stahl, setting an example of the
consequences of poor performance for the other employees.
b. Discipline Stahl harshly for failing to do an important task
properly, so he would make sure to do better next time.
c. Take no action but make sure not to entrust
Stahl with important tasks in the future.
d. Undertake to complete the document yourself.
e. Assist Stahl in completing the document assuming
Stahl had already learned an important lesson.

If you were Stahl, which of the above would you expect to happen and why? Which would you hope to happen and why?


Ivester worked with Stahl late into the night, as the project had a non-negotiable deadline. From this experience, Stahl discovered the secret of Ivester’s effectiveness: the skill of combining high-level oversight with the ability to delve into details and adopt a hands on approach when required.

From then on, Stahl made it a priority to train others to focus on details as an effective alternative to micro management. He put the experience to good use managing Coca-Cola’s operations in 180 countries, a Herculean task 30 years ago, when the internet was nonexistent.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”