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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Attaining Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

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woman-w-data

Leaders have a responsibility to connect elements of their vision in the context of thinking, planning and actions. Connecting vision to action and then to expected results depends upon effectively applying “visionary thinking” practices and principles. Visionary thinking then provides the means for strategic direction and specific deployment actions.

Leaders need to define the larger picture of who the organization is, which defines its being, and what it does, or its mission. This also includes identifying what values are important to the organization, where it is going or its visional direction, and why it must go in the direction its leaders determine. It takes visionary thinking to develop necessary strategies, procedures and plans capable of linking these elements in a way that moves employees and the organization forward.

It is no accident that visionary leaders generally become an organization’s best teachers and create definite linkages between values, vision and mission. They make communication the cornerstone of the organizational culture, and inspire members to embrace, actively work toward and successfully attain the shared vision.

The need for organizational change and sometimes a new course or direction is often not clear to management and/or the workforce. Visionary thinking works to integrate a strategic direction of an organization to a long-term destination, which then sets into motion various key elements and processes that work together to effect necessary changes. From a visionary standpoint, it is the leader’s primary responsibility to set the context for needed changes and present compelling reasons why management and employees alike should accept the challenges that the changes represent.

If the need for vision-related change is not clearly communicated in an organization’s strategic direction, then the value of planned strategies, goals, objectives, as well as the vision driving the intended changes will ultimately come into question. If the rationale behind particular changes is not thoroughly understood, the changes will be resisted. Then either nothing happens, or employees will only demonstrate superficial compliance.

Leadership is defined by recognizing the need to change, communicating this need, and accomplishing necessary incremental changes through the actions of employees. To align and communicate leadership expectations and responsibilities, terms such as vision, values and mission help get the attention of organizational employees to spark a desire for embracing progress.

Attaining organizational results requires visionary thinking and planning on multiple levels.

Visionary Thinking Places Employees’ Best Interests First

Above everything else, the key to successfully implementing vision-related initiatives is for leaders to create positive environments for employees that allow them to embrace their unique talents and capabilities, feel secure, grow and prosper. Imparting the larger picture to employees in regard to organizational vision is one of the most effective tools for facilitating a solid commitment to new vision, values and mission. With commitment comes positive and enthusiastic action.

If employees “feel” secure about the promise of the vision and the importance of the mission they will begin to take ownership of them. “Feelings” are associated with the organizational values and values, tend to define the culture. Therefore, leaders should consider how well the organizational culture is aligned with their vision, mission and actions.

Visionary Thinking Focuses on Values

Values are what are most important in relationship to attaining leadership and organizational vision. They provide organizational as well as personal parameters and boundaries, and help to guide behavior, prioritize decisions, and justify the rationale for vision-related decisions. With organizational values as a foundation, vision is where the organization needs to go.

One of vision’s main functions is to provide excitement about the mission or destination. Visional communication that is value-based explains to employees how all the various vision-related elements come together and interlink to determine actions that accomplish the desired goals, objectives and changes.

Vision and Positive Workplace Culture

Culture and leadership are often considered two sides of the same coin. This is because leaders tend to first create positive cultures when they establish well-functioning and collaborative groups within their organizations and departments. Once these cultures exist, they determine the best criteria for moving their visional direction forward.

Incorporating cultural understanding into the “visional picture” and directional goals and objectives is essential to leading effectively. If organizational and workplace cultures become dysfunctional, leaders have to think of strategies that can be implemented to successfully manage transformational change in such a way that their employees can survive and cope with it. If leaders are conscious of the cultures in which they operate and function, those cultures will manage the desired changes.

Visionary Thinking Coordinates Resources

Vision, values and mission become the means by which leaders are able to guide, influence and educate their employees. Among these three factors, vision becomes the “magnetic field” that works to align people, efforts and resources, which tends to generate a desire to incorporate positive planning, action steps and motivation to achieve successful outcomes.

Visionary thinking focuses on the ways and means to coordinate employees and resources that will make necessary changes a reality. It considers interconnections between organizational values, vision, and mission that work to provide a new sense of direction or drive higher levels of performance. This forms the basis for determining where the organization needs to go and the changes that will help get it there. Visionary thinking helps to eliminate management processes, practices and procedures that tend to void or negate positive vision-related efforts, workforce momentum and work-related enthusiasm.

Visionary Thinking Should Not be Confused with Strategic Planning

Leadership is based on change, and change is about thinking differently and being creative. Strategic planning void of visionary thinking is nothing more than a superficial to-do list and may not detail the more in-depth pursuits needed to accomplish the real desired outcomes.

When vision, values, and mission guide an organization’s strategic direction, real change becomes the driving force for the development of specific goals and objectives. In this way, vision and values become more of a strategic plan than the created project plans that are developed to accomplish particular goals and objectives.

Leading vision-related change is typically considered to be a right-brain activity in which getting people to see the reasons why change is necessary and how to go about implementing it is the focus. Managing vision-related change is mostly a left-brain activity concerned with the “what’s and how’s” of action steps, and laying out a strategic course and direction.

Developing visionary thinking requires addressing and designing implementation procedures and practices around eight steps.

  • Establishing an immediate sense of urgency;
  • Creating a vision-oriented “guiding and directing” base of supporters;
  • Developing a separate strategy and vision for each smaller part of the whole;
  • Communicating the vision of change;
  • Empowering broad-based employee actions;
  • Generating short-term wins and successes;
  • Consolidating gains in order to generate further change;
  • Embedding new approaches, philosophies and practices into the organizational culture.

Taken in their entirety, these steps can be viewed from a sequential perspective, which moves from leading visionary change to managing it in order to complete sequential and incremental forward movement. The final four steps may be seen as forming a transition from “where we as a collaborative group need to go” to “how we’re going to get there.”

Visionary Thinking Leads to Action

Once the leader’s vision is defined and communicated, the visionary thinking process becomes officially translated into action. Strategic planning becomes more of a programming activity to support the leader’s visionary thinking. Within this context a leader can expect tension between leading and managing change.

Visionary thinking should provide a means to support the creation of a common focus. This is not to be confused with the development of a vision statement. A formalized vision statement may or may not provide the desired common focus and commitment for needed actions or changes.

When a leader’s vision statement becomes “etched in stone,” it may inhibit refocusing, redefining, and communicating a new sense of direction for achieving a different end result or seeking out new opportunities. Within the visionary thinking process it is more important to develop ways to “etch” the leader’s vision in employees’ minds and hearts, as well as to guide their behaviors and attitudes.

It is just as important to develop criteria that consistently provides for decision-making and prioritization that will accomplish the organization’s vision-related mission. Visionary thinking is about creating new categories for developing or grouping previously developed strategies. It needs to focus on defining functions and processes that take leaders beyond their normal comfort zones and limitations to view things from new perspectives and in new combinations.

Aligning vision with action should be the goal of vision-based thinking and strategic planning. Ultimately, aligning vision and action should move the organization in the desired direction.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Execution: Six Action Steps

Seven Productive Responses to Change

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

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Louis Gerstner - IBM

Louis Gerstner – IBM

Leaders have ideas and a personal vision of what they feel their organization is capable of accomplishing. Ideas and vision are meaningless unless a leader can effectively communicate them to others and win their approval.

When leaders introduce a new idea to an organization, they are not only selling that new idea, they are selling the concept of change.

In many organizations, the concept of change is not readily accepted and often takes time and patience to implement. This is where many leaders find their values and principles tested. Their ideas are often not accepted at first and they must present them over and over again until they are. However, during this period, each rejection causes the leader to reevaluate their position and refine their ideas until they find acceptance.

As facilitators of change, leaders will encounter many barriers and obstacles within their organization. It requires time, persistence and the ability to organize and effectively communicate new ideas and concepts. A true leader will not give up on their vision and the ideas and concepts that define it. They are convinced of the merit of their ideas and remain focused until they are able to see them implemented.

Leaders must use effective communication methods to implement their ideas including the following steps:

Evaluate

Before a leader can present and sell their idea to others, he or she must take the time to make sure it is carefully conceived and thought through. It is not sufficient to simply state an idea and then hope the organization implements it. Rather, before presenting a new idea or concept, the leader must examine it from all aspects, perspectives and viewpoints. He or she must determine if the idea is feasible in terms of time, money, personnel and other available resources.

A poorly conceived idea or proposal has little hope of a fair hearing, much less being approved.

Substantiate

A leader can best move an idea or concept forward by taking the time to research whether or not the idea has worked elsewhere. If it was tried at another company location or within the industry, there may be results and statistics that can be used for validation.

Leaders can substantiate their conclusions with impartial documentation cited in trade journals, magazines, newspapers, books and industry research papers. Naysayers will find it difficult to dispute a well-documented and conceived idea.

Develop Scenarios

Before formally presenting a new idea or concept, leaders should take the time to develop a best- and worst-case scenario. Typically, neither the best- nor worst-case scenario will occur. Actual results will normally fall somewhere between the two extremes, but before a final decision is made it is important to identify the exposure to the organization.

It should be noted that when leaders develop scenarios, the assumptions on which they are based are critical. The more realistic and substantiated the assumptions, the more reliable the scenario. Faulty assumptions can produce a skewed, unrealistic and therefore unreliable scenario.

Solicit Feedback and Support

Before making a formal presentation, astute leaders will solicit feedback from allies and associates. This provides an initial forum to test their ideas and concepts while gathering additional feedback in order to make modifications and improvements before a formal presentation is made. It also allows leaders to build the internal support they need to move their ideas and concepts forward.

Link Benefits to Idea

Individuals will support a new concept or idea when they grasp the benefits to be derived from it. Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”  Leaders can use this reality to their advantage by clearly outlining and communicating the benefits of their idea to the organization, employees and customers. This allows leaders to build internal support as individuals realize the personal benefits they will experience from the idea once it is implemented.

Review Timing

New ideas and concepts can be welcomed at certain times and ignored at others. If the organization is dealing with many other issues or it is the end of the budget, new ideas and concepts may not be received or tabled until circumstances change. These circumstances can affect whether a new proposal is even reviewed.

Leaders must be aware of the timing of their presentation so that it is well received. They understand the priorities of their organization and wait until they know their ideas will be received and allocated the time and resources to fully evaluate them.

Communicate with Passion

The creation of new ideas and concepts are part of a leader’s vision for the organization. They must communicate their ideas with passion and paint a vivid picture of their vision in order for the audience to appreciate the positive changes that will come with it. A lackluster presentation makes for lackluster results.

Anticipate Objections

An effective communicator will anticipate objections to their idea(s). Rather than passively wait for these negative comments to occur, he or she will immediately address them at the beginning of the presentation with documented facts and figures. By anticipating and addressing objections up front, fewer objections will occur later. Problems arise when leaders attempt to hide and mask negative information, problems and implications. This renders their presentation suspect and subject to more intense scrutiny.

Identify Best Communications Method

Depending upon the scope and complexity of a new idea or concept, there may be multiple ways to present an idea to superiors, associates and employees. Leaders must determine what will be the most effective manner of communicating their ideas, whether it be a memo, report or a physical presentation to a group or committee. The optimal mode of communication will vary, but leaders should consider that which will best convey their new idea or concept to the decision making individual or body.

Request an Evaluation

When leaders encounter resistance to the implementation of an idea or concept, they request a controlled evaluation to be conducted on a limited basis. This provides the decision maker(s) with concrete facts on which to base their final decision.

Excerpt: Improving Communications in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011)$ 16.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

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blogCrystal-Ball

Vision communication can be thought of as expressing an ideal that represents or reflects the organization’s collectively shared values. Numerous studies have shown that leaders who enthusiastically promote and communicate their vision tend to create positive effects on employee performance, attitudes and perceptions.

Specific core components need to be incorporated to effectively communicate one’s vision. These are:

  • Displaying a charismatic, forceful, animated and confident communication style;
  • Taking action to support the implementation of the vision, such as by serving as an exemplary role model;
  • Intellectually stimulating employees and building their confidence while continuously promoting the vision.

A well thought-out vision concisely but openly expresses a leader’s values and energy. In this way, vision content is communicated through imagery that generates a vivid mental picture of possibilities in relationship to existing realities.

When communicating their vision, leaders should focus on detailing its strategic emphasis and response to necessary changes. This includes outlining expectations as to the vision’s degree of control over those changes and its relationship to employees’ self-interests, as well as combining specific needs and values into a unified and collaborative effort.

Describing the Vision in Terms of Mission, Values and Goals

Communicating a vision effectively needs to incorporate components of the leader’s organizational mission, strategy, values and goals. Leaders need to communicate the vision in such a way as to integrate all these elements and place them into a visual framework that works to guide future action. Communicating a vision needs to motivate the setting of specific task-related goals, which in turn affect and alter performance.

It is essential to maintain clarity when communicating visional direction, with goals specifically detailed and explained. As part of this communication process, statements should include imagery that is specifically related to:

  • Performance
  • Achievement and improvement
  • Future time perspectives
  • Assumptions of personal responsibility
  • Initiatives and their acceptance
  • Anticipating future possibilities

Goals should be described in desirable terms that reflect ways to address challenges or the future orientation of the organization. For example, results-focused company goals may become the equivalent of task-specific targets such as “doubling production output within the next two years.”

The Importance of Modeling the Vision

While effective communication of a vision has a direct and obvious effect on performance, it is more likely to generate indirect impacts on motivation, acceptance, and perseverance in overcoming challenges and hindrances. Indirect positive results are realized when employees know the purpose behind the vision’s structure and understand its content, attributes and interrelationships from their own personal perspective.

As simply communicating a well-formulated vision is not enough to guarantee results, leaders within the organization must “walk the talk.” As part of the communication process, leaders need to reinforce the vision’s inherent values through consistent and animated positive role modeling as well as in the way they select and work with employees, acknowledge small changes and reward successes.

Vision Needs Visibility

Leaders often tend to articulate a vision taken straight from their organization’s strategic plan or their own personal planning process. When doing this, they begin to rewrite a modified or restructured vision and mission statement, or sometimes even find themselves devising and establishing an altogether new set of organizational values. Most times these efforts only muddy the visional communication process and leave employees confused. This in turn results in hindering the goals they desire to pursue, and effective ways to achieve them.

Communication of a vision does not rely on the underlying rationale as much as it does on making exciting possibilities “visible” within the organization. Leaders can accomplish this by openly communicating and stressing the following:

  • Inspiring with a sense of passion;
  • Employee well-being as a direct benefit of the vision;
  • Vision as an adaptive tool for organizational and group survival;
  • The necessity of building and maintaining work effectiveness;
  • Courage and a willingness to take a stand;
  • The rewards of ambition and perseverance;
  • Integrity, ethics and values;
  • Generating self-esteem and emotional stability;
  • Developing patience, endurance and tolerance for ambiguity;
  • Quality decision making;
  • The importance of stimulating creative thinking and innovation;
  • The intention to utilize all employees’ functional, technical and organizational skills in pursuit of the vision;
  • Priority setting as a necessary tool to accomplish assignments, projects and tasks in a timely and effective manner.

To align and communicate vision-related responsibilities, leaders utilize terms related to organizational values and mission, exciting challenges, unified efforts, and work-related incentives to help get the attention of employees. Doing this makes the vision concrete and tangible, and sets in motion key elements for reaching the necessary goals that steadily lead to its attainment.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $16.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Q & A: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. - Author - Great! What Makes Leaders Great

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. – Author – Great! What Makes Leaders Great

An Interview With the Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

The editors of Majorium Business Press recently had the opportunity to interview Timothy Bednarz about his book: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012) to discuss his thoughts on the crisis of leadership being witnessed in America today.

Q: The research presented in Great! focuses upon 160 influential leaders, spanning 235 years. I would like to start our discussion by asking, do you believe leadership has changed over time?

Bednarz: The concept of what constitutes great leadership hasn’t changed over time. When I first started my research, I thought that genuinely great leadership was a thing of the past, but I was surprised to discover there are individuals today who can classified as great leaders.

There is no doubt that individuals are shaped by the times they lived in. However the great leaders rose to the pinnacles of success, while many of their contemporaries failed. What made the difference was the fact they developed the characteristics and leadership dimensions that allowed them to succeed.

Q: So you’re saying leadership hasn’t changed?

Bednarz: No, that’s not quite true. What has undoubtedly changed is the focus on short-term profitability and shareholder value, which often sacrifices a company’s long-term viability. This trend emerged in the mid 1980s after the success of Jack Welch at GE. Many CEOs jumped on the bandwagon and this trend changed the face of corporate leadership ever since. Consequently, this has severely eroded trust and credibility after years of scandals and downsizing that has affected literally millions of people.

Q: What impact has these two factors had on today’s leaders?

Bednarz: The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has evaluated global trust levels for the past 12 years, reported that the current levels of credibility of today’s CEOs has dropped to an all time low of 38%. This reflects a decrease of over 12% in the past twelve months.

Q: What are the implications of this drop in CEO’s credibility?

Bednarz: What is interesting about Edelman’s survey is that it emphasizes that without trust and credibility, a leaders lose their legitimacy to lead. Just because individuals are either appointed or elected to high positions of authority, doesn’t mean they have earned it. They may have the power and authority that comes with their position, but the legitimacy to lead must be granted by others, such as employees, voters, suppliers, communities, investors, and a host of potential constituencies, which leaders serve.

Q: How does this influence the concept of leadership?

Bednarz: Referring back to the idea of the earned right to lead, and from the decrease in credibility, many so-called leaders today have lost their focus on what is true leadership. To go back to your original question; has leadership changed? I firmly believe, great leadership is defined by the ability of an individual to earn the trust, respect and credibility of those that the leader serves. He or she has earned the legitimacy to lead. Every great leader I researched, over 235 years possessed trust, credibility and legitimacy, and 58% of the leaders I survey can be included in this category. All too many today solely focus on the financial performance of their companies and then wonder why they have lost their credibility.

Q: Is focusing on profits and financial performance wrong? After all this seems to be a theme in the current presidential campaign.

Bednarz: There is nothing wrong with being highly concerned about profits, and focusing on financial performance, but it needs to be balanced with the needs of all of one’s key constituencies. Great leaders today have proven this to be possible, without sacrificing financial performance. Jack Welch, whose example many corporate leaders follow, stated after he left GE that it is foolish to only focus on financial performance. It I only one factor to consider.

Q: Can you cite some examples of leaders today who have earned their legitimacy?

Bednarz: Certainly. Fred Smith of FedEx, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Jeff Bezos of Amazon all come to mind, and there are certainly others.

Q: Based upon your responses and research, how would you define leadership?

Bednarz: That is an interesting question and one that I was seeking to answer, when I first started my research. There is a host of leadership books on the market, with many more written each year, yet, many are very similar, parroting the same information without providing the reader with any new insights or perspectives on the topic of leadership. I believe that to understand the topic of leadership, you need to first understand the leaders who have historically defined it and provided us with effective role models.

After years of study, I have concluded and condensed it into a brief statement; leadership is ultimately an act of faith in other people.

Q: That’s an interesting concept. Isn’t it the role of a leader to lead?

Bednarz: The operative word in your question is “lead.” The role of a leader is to inspire, motivate, influence and guide others. Think about it. In order to inspire, motivate, influence and guide other individuals, one must establish mutual bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility.

Q: Can loyalty, trust, respect and credibility be measured?

Bednarz: You must understand that everything a leader does or says is judged by others and contributes to their credibility and legitimacy or ultimately undermines it. We have an environment that relies on relative rather than absolute truths. Consequently, we often observe so-called leaders making incredulous statements, devoid of any sense of intellectual honesty, and credibility, treating their audience like a bunch of fools, incapable of seeing the truth.

People view many in corporate and governmental positions of power as self-serving, without regard for others and the consequences of their actions. It is little wonder why we have a crisis of leadership. It’s everyone for themselves without regard for those they are appointed to serve. Subsequently, we see a crisis in confidence in these individuals, as noted by Eldeman’s survey.

Q: How would the great leaders that you surveyed respond to this crisis of confidence?

Bednarz: The great leaders I researched developed strong emotional bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility with their employees, investors, suppliers, communities and a host of other constituencies. They were able to balance the needs of each of these groups, without sacrificing the needs of others. They had faith in the people they served, and this is reflected in the wiliness of these constituencies to eagerly believe in them and to loyally follow where they led them.

Q: Beyond the obvious benefits of loyalty, how did the great leaders you researched profit from it?

Bednarz: The emotional bonds forged by the great leaders paid dividends over time. For instance, when George Westinghouse faced financial difficulties during the Financial Panic of 1907, his employees sacrificed for him. They made personal contributions for him to save Westinghouse Electric. In another instance, Fred Smith saw his employees volunteer their time to help handle an onslaught of packages received by FedEx during the UPS strike in 1997. Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines has driven these attitudes deep into the company’s culture.

Q: In the introduction to your book you stated, “We stand at a critical moment in history for great leadership. The door of opportunity is wide open for us to those who desire to rise above the fray. History shows that many individuals have assumed the mantle of leadership, often not without experiencing painful failures and stifling adversities. Their actions and examples provide clear pathways to follow. This book is designed to show you the way.” Why do you think today’s leaders should look to examples of great leadership in the past?

Bednarz: America, if not the world is crying out today for ethical and strong leadership, especially since the world appears to be spinning into chaos. History has repeatedly demonstrated that great leaders emerge from difficult times. Many of the leaders focused upon in my book Great! have emerged from similar circumstances, If leaders today follow their examples and diligently study how they did it, there are many lessons that can be transferred into action that are able to transform individuals into great leaders.

Q: If you could condense the message of your book into one or two short sentences for this audience, what would you they be?

Bednarz: Two words: Leadership matters. This is true, whether as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or as the president of the local PTA. Great leaders can emerge at any level of an organization, at any time, and in every field. Each has the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they lead and serve.

Q: Thank you for your time today.

Bednarz: My pleasure.

Read a Free Chapter of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Productive Response to Failure

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Fred Smith - Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Fred Smith – Founder and CEO of FEDEX

The great and influential leaders were no strangers to failure. My research illustrates that most experienced levels of failure and adversity that would compel typical individuals to pack their bags and quit in frustration and disappointment. The levels of success they achieved did not come easily, but from persistence. Their personal levels of perseverance and self-reliance are what realistically defined them. Most viewed failure as a learning experience, rather than a defining event. Fred Smith (FedEx) observed, “Just because an idea isn’t implemented or doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that a person has failed.” [1]

Early in his career at Johnson & Johnson, General Robert Wood Johnson taught James Burke a valuable lesson about failure. “Shortly after he arrived at J&J in 1953 as a product director after three years at Procter & Gamble, Burke attempted to market several over-the-counter medicines for children. They all failed-and he was called in for a meeting with the chairman.

‘I assumed I was going to be fired,’ Burke recalls. ‘But instead, Johnson told me, ‘Business is all about making decisions, and you don’t make decisions without making mistakes. Don’t make that mistake again, but please be sure you make others.’”[2]

In 2001, John Chambers (Cisco) saw his company’s revenues and stock price fall off the cliff during the tech and telecom busts. He was challenged with the reality of massive and likely fatal failure. “Within days of realizing Cisco was crashing, Chambers leapt into trying to fix it. ‘He never dwelled on it,’ says Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM (IBM) … ‘John kept the company focused. He said this is where we are, and he drove the company forward.’

He reached out to [Jack] Welch (General Electric) and a handful of other CEOs. They told him that sudden downturns always take companies by surprise, ‘so I should quit beating myself up for being surprised,’ Chambers recalls. He did. Chambers decided that the free fall had been beyond his control. He now wraps it up in an analogy he retells time and again, likening the crash to a disastrous flood: It rarely happens, but when it does, there’s nothing you can do to stop it… Those other CEOs also told Chambers to figure out how bad it was going to get, take all the harsh action necessary to get through it and plan for the eventual upturn.” [3]

David Packard (Hewlett-Packard) faced failure and adversity in a gruff and straightforward manner. “When he returned to HP in the early 1970s after his stint as deputy secretary of defense and found the company on the verge of borrowing $100 million to cover a cash-flow shortage, he immediately met with employees and gave them what came to be known as a ‘Dave Gives ‘Em Hell’ speech. Packard lined up the division managers in front of employees and told them, ‘If they don’t get inventories under control, they’re not going to be your managers for very long.’ Within six months, the company once again had positive cash flow, to the tune of $40 million.” [4]

John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) advised, “‘Look ahead… Be sure that you are not deceiving yourself at any time about actual conditions.’ He notes that when a business begins to fail, most men hate ‘to study the books and face the truth.” [5]

[1] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[2] Alumni Achievement Awards: James E. Burke (Harvard Business School, 2003)
[3] Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
[4] O’Hanlon Charlene, David Packard: High-Tech Visionary (CRN, November 8, 2000)
[5] Baida Peter, Rockefeller Remembers (American Heritage Magazine, September/October 1988, Volume 39, Issue 6)

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

Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

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Jeff Bezos - Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos – Amazon.com

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) observed, “I don’t think of my life as a career… I do stuff. I respond to stuff. That’s not a career — it’s a life!” [1] Howard Schultz (Starbucks) concurred when he said: When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility… you find another gear.”

James Duke (American Tobacco Company) enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, “I hated to close my desk at night and was eager to get back to it early next morning. I needed no vacation or time off. No fellow does who is really interested in his work.” [2]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) couldn’t say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) was equally passionate about the value that Wal-Mart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey (United Parcel Service), as anyone who knew him understood that “it just took the right topic to get him excited. And that topic was packages. He loved everything about them–the care that went into their wrapping, the sense of mystery about their contents, the delight in opening them. A 1947 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store’s package-wrapping station and waxing enthusiastic–and then some–on the proceedings: ‘Deft fingers! Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied! Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!’ ” [3]

Why is passion so important and why does it contribute so much to one’s success? “Passion is about our emotional energy and a love for what we do. Without passion it becomes difficult to fight back in the face of obstacles and difficulties. People with passion find a way to get things done and to make things happen, in spite of the obstacles and challenges that get in the way.” [4]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) stressed the importance of passion when he stated, “When we talk to other people about Southwest Airlines, I always tell them that it’s got to come from the heart not from the head. It has to be spontaneous, it has to be sincere, it has to be emotional. I said, ‘Nobody will believe it if they think it’s just another program that was conjured up for six months time and then you’re going to drop it. The power of it in creating trust is that people have to see that you really radiate, that it’s a passion with you, and you’re not saying these things because you think they are clever or a way to produce more productivity or produce greater profits, but because you really want things to go well for them, individually.” [5]

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you… One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. If you’re really interested in software and computer science, you should focus on that. But if you’re really interested in medicine, and you decide you’re going to become an Internet entrepreneur because it looks like everybody else is doing well, then that’s probably not going to work. You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you. One of the reasons you saw so many companies that were formed in 1998 or 1999 fail is that they were chasing the wave. And that usually doesn’t work. Find that area that you are interested in and passionate about—and wait for the wave to find you.” [6]

[1]  Fry Stephen, The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (Time Magazine, April 1, 2010)

[2]  Klein Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 99-100

[3]  Lukas Paul, Overfelt Maggie, UPS United Parcel Service James Casey Transformed a Tiny Messenger Service into the World’s Largest Shipper By Getting All Wrapped Up in the Details of Package Delivery (Fortune Small Business, April 1, 2003)

[4]  Ambler George, Steve Jobs and His Leadership (The Practice of Leadership, March 30, 2008)

[5]  Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (published October 1, 2004)

[6]  Walker Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)

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

Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Leaders Possess an Absolute Love for What They Do

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) observed, “I don’t think of my life as a career… I do stuff. I respond to stuff. That’s not a career — it’s a life!” [1]

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) concurred when he said: When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility… you find another gear.”

James Duke (American Tobacco Company) enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, “I hated to close my desk at night and was eager to get back to it early next morning. I needed no vacation or time off. No fellow does who is really interested in his work.” [2]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) couldn’t say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) was equally passionate about the value that Wal-Mart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey (United Parcel Service), as anyone who knew him understood that “it just took the right topic to get him excited. And that topic was packages. He loved everything about them–the care that went into their wrapping, the sense of mystery about their contents, the delight in opening them.

A 1947 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store’s package-wrapping station and waxing enthusiastic–and then some–on the proceedings: ‘Deft fingers! Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied! Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!’ ” [3]

Why is passion so important and why does it contribute so much to one’s success? “Passion is about our emotional energy and a love for what we do. Without passion it becomes difficult to fight back in the face of obstacles and difficulties.

People with passion find a way to get things done and to make things happen, in spite of the obstacles and challenges that get in the way.” [4]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) stressed the importance of passion when he stated, “When we talk to other people about Southwest Airlines, I always tell them that it’s got to come from the heart not from the head. It has to be spontaneous, it has to be sincere, it has to be emotional. I said, ‘Nobody will believe it if they think it’s just another program that was conjured up for six months time and then you’re going to drop it.

The power of it in creating trust is that people have to see that you really radiate, that it’s a passion with you, and you’re not saying these things because you think they are clever or a way to produce more productivity or produce greater profits, but because you really want things to go well for them, individually.” [5]

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you… One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.

If you’re really interested in software and computer science, you should focus on that. But if you’re really interested in medicine, and you decide you’re going to become an Internet entrepreneur because it looks like everybody else is doing well, then that’s probably not going to work.

You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you. One of the reasons you saw so many companies that were formed in 1998 or 1999 fail is that they were chasing the wave. And that usually doesn’t work. Find that area that you are interested in and passionate about—and wait for the wave to find you.” [6]

Related:

  1. How Well Do You Set the Tone?
  2. Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose
  3. Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

References:

  1. Fry Stephen, The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (Time Magazine, April 1, 2010)
  2. Klein Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 99-100
  3. Lukas Paul, Overfelt Maggie, UPS United Parcel Service James Casey Transformed a Tiny Messenger Service into the World’s Largest Shipper By Getting All Wrapped Up in the Details of Package Delivery (Fortune Small Business, April 1, 2003)
  4. Ambler George, Steve Jobs and His Leadership (The Practice of Leadership, March 30, 2008)
  5. Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (published October 1, 2004)
  6. Walker Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

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