The media firestorm over Jill Ambramson’s firing from the New York Times mostly ignores a simple but crucial lesson for people at any organizational level: Critical relationships have to work.
You have to make them work, not only to get things done in the web of interdependencies that characterize most jobs, but also to keep your position. Leaders need support—from their subordinates, customers, and most importantly, their bosses. When that support vanishes, so do their careers. This lesson holds true regardless of your job performance and track record.
And everyone, even chief executives and executive editors, has a boss. Insufficient attention to managing relationships with bosses, such as boards of directors, has cost many otherwise talented and successful people their jobs—witness, as one example, last summer’s ousting of Men’s Wearhouse (MW) founder and emblematic spokesperson, George Zimmer, from his role as chairman of the board.