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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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‘Performance’ is More Than the ‘Bottom Line’

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Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) was the president of both the Carnegie Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Steel. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) was the president of both the Carnegie Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Steel. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) observed; “Put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket,” when he answered the question of how he became so successful, he obviously gave a simple response to a complex question. However, his answer simply places a focus on the entirety of his plans and goals, from one who mastered the art of execution and used it to his competitive advantage.

When individuals are elected to run a corporation, most often the only major thing that is taken into account, is whether or not they have the talent to get things done and to deliver on their commitments. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters.

Peter Drucker in his commentary about Alfred Sloan (General Motors) wrote, “The job of a professional manager is not to like people. It is not to change people. It is to put their strengths to work. And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts, and indeed is the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to. I once said to Sloan that I had rarely seen more different people than the two men who during my study had run the most profitable divisions of GM, Chevrolet and Cadillac. ‘You are quite mistaken,’ he said.‘These two men were very much alike – both performed.’ – But ‘performance’ is more than the ‘bottom line.’ It is also setting an example and being a mentor. And this requires integrity.” [1]

The great leaders were known for their talent to execute well. Henry Kaiser (Kaiser) exemplified this ability when he ramped up production of his Liberty Ships during the Second World War. So did James Burke (Johnson & Johnson), when faced with the Tylenol crisis in the 1980s.

Colin Powell (U.S. Army) observed, “‘The most important assets you have in all of this are the people, and if you don’t put people at the center of your process, you’ll fail. Not profit motives, not size of the organization’s headquarters, but people.’

What differentiates successful companies from unsuccessful companies is rarely the brilliant, secret, take-the-market-by storm grand plan. Indeed, the leaders of today’s great companies are inclined to freely share their plans and business models in books and magazines. Even if they weren’t, today’s fast-moving economy dictates that most organizations’ plans are on their way to obsolescence almost from the moment that they are publicly revealed.

The key to success, therefore, lies in exceptional, innovative, fast execution. Execution lies, in turn, in the capacity of people to quickly capitalize on fleeting opportunities in the marketplace; develop imaginative ideas and creative responses; generate fast, constantly changing action plans; mobilize teams and resources; get the job done swiftly an effectively—and then continue that process with relentless commitment.

That’s what this ‘people’ thing is all about, because it’s people that make all that happen. What effective leaders do is create an environment in which great people can flourish in optimal pursuit of the enterprise’s mission. In describing the famed symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein, one observer noted that ‘what Bernstein achieved—and what great leaders achieve—is a seeming paradox. He convinced his players they were free to innovate and express themselves, while convincing them to accept his vision for the music and to follow his direction.’ That description nicely captures the spirit of the leader role that Powell endorses.” [2]

As has been previously noted, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Fred Smith (FedEx), along with numerous other cited examples, all built successful organizations around their employees.

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) knows not only the value of his employees and their contributions, but also knows how to extract the best from them. “Howard asks questions and will challenge you to perform. He’ll push you to go gather the data.

He’ll tell you what he would do to try and solve a problem, but he’s not always going to hand you the answer.” [3]
While at Carnegie Steel, where he supervised all of the plant supervisors for Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab rose from laborer to the executive ranks through his uncanny talent to execute.

“Schwab was not an originator, he was a builder of integrated teams. His particular genius was in handling people…” [4] Schwab often recalled a story, which demonstrates his talent to execute. He said,

“I had a mill manager who was finely educated, thoroughly capable and master of every detail of the business. But he seemed unable to inspire his men to do their best.

‘How is it that a man as able as you,’ I asked him one day, ‘cannot make this mill turn out what it should?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I have coaxed the men; I have pushed them, I have sworn at them. I have done everything in my power. Yet they will not produce.’

It was near the end of the day; in a few minutes the night force would come on duty. I turned to a workman who was standing beside one of the red-mouthed furnaces and asked him for a piece of chalk.

‘How many heats has your shift made today?’ I queried.

‘Six,’ he replied.

I chalked a big ‘6’ on the floor, and then passed along without another word. When the night shift came in they saw the ‘6’ and asked about it.

‘The big boss was in here today,’ said the day men. ‘He asked us how many heats we had made, and we told him six. He chalked it down.’

The next morning I passed through the same mill. I saw that the ‘6’ had been rubbed out and a big ‘7’ writteninstead. The night shift had announced itself.

That night I went back. The ‘7’ had been erased, and a ‘10’ swaggered in its place. The day force recognized no superiors.

Thus a fine competition was started, and it went on until this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant.” [5]

Related:

  1. Do You Have a Zeal to Execute?
  2. Do You Have Faith in Your People?
  3. Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?
  4. Should Profit Be the Only Measure of Success?

References:

  1. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  2. Harari Oren, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (McGraw Hill, New York 2002) p.128
  3. Meyers William, Conscience in a Cup of Coffee (U.S. News, October 31, 2005)
  4. “Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab” by Robert Hessen and “The Highest Virtue” by Alan Stang (Freeman, February 1976)
  5. Schwab Charles M., Succeeding with What You Have (Century Company, New York 1917) p. 39-41

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

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Eight Leadership Principles You Can’t Ignore

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Effective leadership is the result of acting according to reliable practices as well as intuition. Managers as leaders use sound management and leadership principles to guide and direct their actions and activities. They know where they want to go and what specifically needs to be done in order to get there, and that each particular step needs to be carefully considered as to the consequences associated with specific actions and decisions.

There is a difference between managers who lead and those who supervise. Leaders use sound management and leadership principles as tools to help them achieve their goals and objectives. More traditional managers often attempt to use their authority to protect their “turfs” with little or no regard for the people they are responsible for.

Managers as leaders are driven by a vision of what they want to accomplish. They always have their “eye on the prize” and know just where they want to go and why. They work through their employees using their own passion as a strong motivational tool, demonstrating the possibilities of what all can achieve together.

Managers as successful leaders must be enthusiastic and positive in all of their actions and interactions. This is demonstrated by the use of the following key leadership principles:

Related: Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Planning

Planning has suffered with the inception of many 90s management fads. Many in the now defunct dot-com companies proclaimed that planning was an obsolete management function. The accepted view was that circumstances change too quickly to be effectively planned for. They fully believed that it was better to be reactive rather than proactive. The failure of this theory was evident in the bursting of the dot-com bubble.

Good leaders know their success is founded on solid management principles—including planning. They also understand that things are always in flux and changing, and they plan accordingly to anticipate what must be done to accommodate particular changes. They take the necessary time to frequently modify their plans to bring them into line with actual conditions.

Organization

Managers as leaders must understand how to apply and use organizational matrixes to gauge and measure their personal time, efforts and resources as well as those of their employees. Matrixes allow for simultaneous monitoring of various organizational activities across multiple levels.

Effective organizational management provides leaders strategic control over their areas of workplace responsibility. One of their major roles is to manage employees and make certain they are producing ongoing results. Managers are also responsible for the various behaviors and outcomes of the people they manage. This can only be accomplished through effective organizational practices and methods.

Related: Linking Structure to Action

Stimulation

Managers who lead must be exceptional motivators. They must learn how to effectively use their passions and visions to attract and motivate others. But as motivation is not enough, they must also use ideas, conceptions and actions to stimulate their employees’ thinking and stretch their capabilities. They must make it a point to understand the individuality of everyone they manage and apply different techniques to stimulate and motivate each in the most effective manner.

Related: Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

Information

Leaders are always mindful of the power that information has on their personal ability to perform effectively. Today, too many managers are awash in information, while starving for expertise.

Leaders must be able to distill the vast flow of information into usable metrics and data, which makes it easier to understand what is happening within their organizations. Detailed informational input should actively support all key management metrics and help keep ongoing tabs on every aspect of employees’ important activities. Accessing particular information only when it is required without excessive daily review allows them the freedom to manage effectively without being bogged down by information overload.

Leaders must also understand the need for the free-flow of information between superiors, associates and employees. This allows for effective management and communication on all levels.

Time Management

Time is a limited resource, and managers must be able to use it wisely. They need to employ time-saving techniques such as delegation and empowerment to free themselves from tasks and assignments others can just as easily see to. They should look at every activity to determine whether or not it moves them closer to their goals and vision. Activities that do not fit this criterion should either be delegated or dispensed with.

Related: You Keep Innovating if You Want to Keep Leading

Idea Development

To be competitive and gain an organizational advantage, managers as leaders must create and develop new ideas and concepts. They should always be looking for new and better approaches and for ways to accomplish more with less. A good way to identify and implement ideas, methods or concepts is to brainstorm with associates or employees to determine ways to gain even the smallest marketplace advantage.

Value

Managers as leaders must understand that maintaining and nurturing customer relationships has considerable organizational value. As nothing can be taken for granted, repeatedly meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations becomes a top priority. When customer satisfaction is achieved, value is delivered. Managers must incorporate the fact that there will be no compromise on value into their vision statement. Satisfied customers make their professional existence possible.

Related: Do You Have the Talent to Execute Get Things Done?

Efficiency

Effective managers know it takes little extra time and effort to do things right the first time, while carelessness wastes a great deal of time and valuable resources. All organizations have limited resources and managers must work hard to maximize return on investments with those assigned to them. They must make it a point to always look for ways to increase their organizational efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Excerpt: Leadership: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

 

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 Foreward 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

Do You Have the Talent to Execute & Get Things Done?

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Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) observed; “Put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket,” when he answered the question of how he became so successful, he obviously gave a simple response to a complex question. However, his answer simply places a focus on the entirety of his plans and goals, from one who mastered the art of execution and used it to his competitive advantage.

When individuals are elected to run a corporation, most often the only major thing that is taken into account, is whether or not they have the talent to get things done and to deliver on their commitments. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters.

Alfred Sloan

Peter Drucker in his commentary about Alfred Sloan (General Motors) wrote, “The job of a professional manager is not to like people. It is not to change people. It is to put their strengths to work. And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts, and indeed is the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to. I once said to Sloan that I had rarely seen more different people than the two men who during my study had run the most profitable divisions of GM, Chevrolet and Cadillac. ‘You are quite mistaken,’ he said. ‘These two men were very much alike – both performed.’ – But ‘performance’ is more than the ‘bottom line.’ It is also setting an example and being a mentor. And this requires integrity.” [1]

The great leaders were known for their talent to execute well. Henry Kaiser (Kaiser) exemplified this ability when he ramped up production of his Liberty Ships during the Second World War. So did James Burke (Johnson & Johnson), when faced with the Tylenol crisis in the 1980s. Colin Powell (U.S. Army) observed, “‘The most important assets you have in all of this are the people, and if you don’t put people at the center of your process, you’ll fail. Not profit motives, not size of the organization’s headquarters, but people.’ What differentiates successful companies from unsuccessful companies is rarely the brilliant, secret, take-the-market-by storm grand plan. Indeed, the leaders of today’s great companies are inclined to freely share their plans and business models in books and magazines. Even if they weren’t, today’s fast-moving economy dictates that most organizations’ plans are on their way to obsolescence almost from the moment that they are publicly revealed.

The key to success, therefore, lies in exceptional, innovative, fast execution. Execution lies, in turn, in the capacity of people to quickly capitalize on fleeting opportunities in the marketplace; develop imaginative ideas and creative responses; generate fast, constantly changing action plans; mobilize teams and resources; get the job done swiftly an effectively—and then continue that process with relentless commitment. That’s what this ‘people’ thing is all about, because it’s people that make all that happen. What effective leaders do is create an environment in which great people can flourish in optimal pursuit of the enterprise’s mission. In describing the famed symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein, one observer noted that ‘what Bernstein achieved—and what great leaders achieve—is a seeming paradox. He convinced his players they were free to innovate and express themselves, while convincing them to accept his vision for the music and to follow his direction.’ That description nicely captures the spirit of the leader role that Powell endorses.” [2]

As has been previously noted, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Fred Smith (FedEx), along with numerous other cited examples, all built successful organizations around their employees. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) knows not only the value of his employees and their contributions, but also knows how to extract the best from them. “Howard asks questions and will challenge you to perform. He’ll push you to go gather the data. He’ll tell you what he would do to try and solve a problem, but he’s not always going to hand you the answer.” [3]

Charles Schwab

While at Carnegie Steel, where he supervised all of the plant supervisors for Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab rose from laborer to the executive ranks through his uncanny talent to execute. “Schwab was not an originator, he was a builder of integrated teams. His particular genius was in handling people…” [4] Schwab often recalled a story, which demonstrates his talent to execute. He said, “I had a mill manager who was finely educated, thoroughly capable and master of every detail of the business. But he seemed unable to inspire his men to do their best.

‘How is it that a man as able as you,’ I asked him one day, ‘cannot make this mill turn out what it should?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I have coaxed the men; I have pushed them, I have sworn at them. I have done everything in my power. Yet they will not produce.’

It was near the end of the day; in a few minutes the night force would come on duty. I turned to a workman who was standing beside one of the red-mouthed furnaces and asked him for a piece of chalk.

‘How many heats has your shift made today?’ I queried.

‘Six,’ he replied.

I chalked a big ‘6’ on the floor, and then passed along without another word. When the night shift came in they saw the ‘6’ and asked about it.

‘The big boss was in here today,’ said the day men. ‘He asked us how many heats we had made, and we told him six. He chalked it down.’

The next morning I passed through the same mill. I saw that the ‘6’ had been rubbed out and a big ‘7’ written instead. The night shift had announced itself. That night I went back. The ‘7’ had been erased, and a ‘10’ swaggered in its place. The day force recognized no superiors. Thus a fine competition was started, and it went on until this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant.” [5]

[1] Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

[2] Harari Oren, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (McGraw Hill, New York 2002) p.128

[3] Meyers William, Conscience in a Cup of Coffee (U.S. News, October 31, 2005)

[4] “Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab” by Robert Hessen and “The Highest Virtue” by Alan Stang (Freeman, February 1976)

[5] Schwab Charles M., Succeeding with What You Have (Century Company, New York 1917) p. 39-41

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

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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