Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Do You Have a Zeal to Execute?

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What differentiates great leaders from their counterparts is their passion and zeal for execution of their plans and strategies. An examination of various leaders such as Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel), Cornelius Vanderbilt (New York Central Railroad), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) and Andrew Grove (Intel) illustrated how they were masters of execution and because of it, more often than not, often outperformed and outmaneuvered their competitors.

People with a passion to execute their plans and strategies inspire and motivate those around them. Even if employees don’t personally know or come into contact with these individuals, they are excited to work for them. This is evident with Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Andy Grove (Intel). Their employees view them as legendary figures and want to perform up to their standards. The same can be said of Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Fred Smith (FedEx), and Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). All shared their “passion and zeal to execute.” Their attitudes were contagious, even if some were not considered to be highly charismatic leaders. Their ability to succeed bred accompanying levels of success and achievement, and their employees desired to be part of it. Consequently, the great leader’s zeal to execute resulted in ever-greater levels of success and loyalty.

Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) possessed the zeal to execute her plans to succeed all though her life, never wavering in her opportunity to excel. “In addition to creating her own products, Lauder also took a hands-on approach when it came to demonstrations and trying to make a sale. That, for Lauder, was often the most exciting part of the job and not only did she enjoy doing it, but she knew that the emotional connection she could establish with customers in person could be an extremely effective sales tool.” [1]

James Casey (United Parcels Service) was totally dedicated to UPS, to the extent that he never married. His life was UPS and how to continually improve it. Douglas Nelson, President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation echoed Casey’s influence, when he stated, “People who grew up in this measurement culture have and continue to make up the majority of our board. Not surprisingly, they have not just supported Casey trademarks –documentation of system inefficiencies, the creation of accurate baselines in judging the effects of initiatives, careful identification of new practices or processes designed to produce better results, and continuous measurement of the effects/results of service experiments and system reform initiatives – our Board has not only supported this, but for 15 years they have reminded us we don’t do it well enough, completely enough, clearly enough.” [2]

Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft) was dealt a difficult hand when her husband became ill. While pregnant, she had to assume control of Beech Aircraft in the middle of Second World War production. Not missing a beat, she ran the company from a hospital bed. She also applied a unique style. “During the war, she also started what became one of her trademarks – hanging flags around the Beech offices. ‘During World War II we used to have a lot of fun with them,’ she said. ‘I had a whole series of them. We used them throughout the years. When an executive did something spectacular, we flew flags over his door.’ One flag had a bright yellow, smiling sun on a blue field and said, ‘Oh Happy Day!’ Another had a red field with a noncommittal sun and said ‘Fair!’ Another had a bolt of lightning. Another was black, had a crying sun, and said ‘Woe!’

The small flags flew in her office. A larger version of the ‘Oh Happy Day’ flag flew on the flagstaff outside the plant. Asked whether the flags expressed her mood or the mood of the company’s business, she said, ‘Both.’ She still keeps the flags at her office and has stickers with the same design in her desk drawer.

‘She was the one that kept trying to get the money together to pay the bills,’ said Frank Hedrick, her nephew, who worked with her at Beech for more than 40 years and who succeeded her in 1968 as president of Beech Aircraft. ‘She’s very astute and very pleasant to deal with,’ said Paul Woods, retired president of the First National Bank. ‘But when she makes up her mind, she won’t give… ‘When she told a person working for her the way she wanted it done, she didn’t want any rag-chewing about it. She wanted it done,’ Woods said.” [3]

[1] Carmichael Evan, Lesson #2: Do It Yourself (www.evancarmichael.com)

[2] Nelson Douglas W. – President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy – Speech to the Foundation Impact Research Group Seminar, March 9, 2005

[3] Earle Joe, Olive Ann Beech Rose to Business Greatness (The Wichita Eagle, February 11, 1985)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great. What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the talent to execute of  the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

June 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

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  1. […] Related: Do You Have a Zeal to Execute? […]

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