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The Latest Executive Dustups Prove Relationships, Not Skills, Determine Success

Jill Abramson listens during a panel discussion at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 26, 2012
Jill Abramson listens during a panel discussion at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 26, 2012Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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.