Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Linking Structure to Action

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Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) - UPS

Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) – UPS

Well-executed plans require organizational structure before they can be successfully implemented, and the great leaders understood this. A properly structured organization builds and drives lines of accountability throughout itself. As the former Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, General Robert Wood [Sears] “ran the company along military lines: directors of hardware and research, for example, corresponded to army chiefs of ordnance or artillery. Channels of authority fell sheer from top to bottom, but autonomy rode down with them.” (1)

James Casey (United Parcel Service) started UPS as an adolescent, so he didn’t possess the military background that Wood had, but he “was an early and thoroughgoing advocate of what was called, in the 1920s, ‘scientific management.’ He believed efficiency produced profit. And he believed that efficiency was achieved by measuring everything – by keeping track of the cost (in time and money) of every step in the process of achieving a result – in this case, the result of successfully delivered packages that met customer expectations. Further, Jim Casey believed that whenever you found a process that improved efficiency, you made it standard practice and you supervised employees to achieve fidelity to that practice.” (2)

Wood and Casey were only a few of the great leaders who linked structure to action. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) and Thomas Watson Sr. (IBM) all built organizations where structure was also solidly linked to action. So did Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). “Rickover believed in courageous impatience. The power of unshakeable determination was critical for him, as good ideas do not get executed very often. Deciding what to do is the easy part … getting it done is more difficult. Being involved in details shows subordinates that if it’s not important to you … why should it be to them? When details are ignored, projects fail. This is not about doing things yourself; it’s about frequent reports (both oral & written) and from numerous sources (remember, he had 40 direct reports!!)” (3)

Peter Drucker observed, “Managers do not make decisions by opinions nor according to their preferences. They manage through the force of facts and not through the force of personality. ‘Bedside manners,’ I once heard Sloan say in a speech to GM managers, ‘are no substitute for the right diagnosis.’ ” (4)

  1. Doenecke Justus D., General Robert E. Wood: The Evolution of a Conservative (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society)
  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. Wacker Watts, Courageous Impatience (www.firstmatter.com)
  4. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

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 © 2014 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

Leaders Succeed When Their Employees Are Successful

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Aiding employees in achieving their personal goals and feeling important and successful within the organization requires good interactive leadership practices. Effective leaders consider helping their employees to be successful an exciting, worthwhile pursuit. When employees are successful, so are leaders.

Helping employees succeed is essential to keeping work units, projects and the entire organization running smoothly and on course. It is not unlike an environment where employees are novice pioneers, dependent upon leaders to guide the wagon train through the chaotic and ever-changing organizational wilderness into “the promised land.”

Achieving and attaining the “unordinary” is the major force behind moving individuals ahead, as it instills a sense of organizational worth and the attainment of incremental successes. In moving employees forward leaders must continually build and instill a desire and commitment to persevere, while continually looking toward the horizon rather than backward.

If leaders fail in their responsibility to harness the best they and their employees can give, all actions get caught up in trivial, daily routines and procedures, problems and issues. Concentrating on the “ordinary” militates against successful achievement and accomplishment.

Individual and cooperative encouragement is the means to goal attainment that is “beyond the ordinary.” An interactive leader’s experience, insight and carefully applied strategies avoid many of the overwhelming barriers and frustrations that wait in hiding. These are vital to eliminate because they can automatically dampen an employee’s spirit and the desire to continue onward toward the achievement of success.

In order to help their employees succeed, leaders employ specific strategies to reinforce motivation, determination and perseverance. These include:

Use New Assignments to Test Individual and Cooperative Limits

It is a leader’s responsibility to remain alert for ways to improve their work unit’s productivity and the organization itself. This depends on giving full support to their employees; they are the ones possessing the skills and manpower required to make improvements a reality.

There is no better way to achieve success than by openly testing individual and workgroup limits. Isolating a difficult job situation and placing employees or groups directly into it provides leaders a revealing gauge of their capabilities. It is also an effective way to overcome a negative problem or situation plaguing the unit or organization.

Once accomplished, it instills a feeling of success, self-worth, and the desire to tackle other challenging projects and assignments. The group/individuals begin to realize they can “accomplish the nearly impossible” by merely challenging, pushing and extending their limits. Consistent encouragement is given during the entire interactive process to see the challenge through.

A leader’s active support during this process is used to encourage his or her people and instill a sense of adventure into the assignment. This is key to making any challenge more enjoyable and successful. Without developing a pioneer spirit of determination and fortitude to surmount the challenges new assignments present, existing fears and uncertainty become an overwhelming obstacle. “Going where no one has gone before” and getting there with whatever it takes is a stimulating way for leaders and their employees to approach each new assignment.

Related: Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

Consistently Question the Status Quo

Facilitating their employees’ success requires that a leader continually urge them to challenge certain processes and offer suggestions on how unproductive efforts or inefficiencies can be improved upon. In order to accomplish this, they list all current work practices within their unit or organization. These must be firmly established and in the category of “the way it’s always been done.” Once the list is compiled they turn it over to their employees and ask, “How useful is each practice for doing the best we can?”

This interactive technique generates creativity and innovation among employees because they are empowered to determine whether or not a particular process or way of performing tasks or assignments is efficient or essential. The critical part of the procedure is to carefully analyze and evaluate the impact of each process and form or structure of task assignment to determine whether any should be kept in place, altered or eliminated.

If certain procedures are selected for modification or possible elimination, the challenge is to find a way to change it. (Policies critical to productivity and quality assurance cannot be challenged and are out of bounds for analyzing and assessing.) Success comes when employees are able to eliminate generally useless rules and needless routines that only hinder their abilities, performance and jobs.

Related: Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Break Free of the Routine

Nothing stymies success more than becoming robots of routine. Comfort zones are the greatest inhibitors of thinking, creativity and innovation, which are indispensable to success.

To help free employees of their comfort zones leaders can use the following exercise. Have employees make a complete list of their daily habits, activities and routines. Ask them to respond to the question, “Which of these improve my feeling of self-worth and my efforts in the unit and organization, and which do not?”

Have them circle the “helping” activities and place a check mark next to those that are “hindering.” If they have a difficult time determining whether they actually want to eliminate some of the hindrances they should be told to ask themselves, “If I keep on with this particular habit, activity or routine, what is the worst that can happen?” After responding, employees should ask the question positively, “What is the best thing that can happen to me if I eliminate this particular hindrance?”

Finally, employees ask, “How successful will I feel knowing that I can overcome something that hinders me? How will it improve my outlook to know I have control over things that prevent me from moving ahead?”

In supporting employees in their efforts to overcome hindering practices and habits, success can be brought about in incremental steps with minimal amounts of effort. The goal is to displace useless habits deeply entrenched in comfort zones with more productive ones. Leaders and employees will both find that the growth pains are clearly worth the gain in creativity, innovation, overall personal productivity and job satisfaction.

Related: Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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.

November 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

Linking Structure to Action

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Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) – UPS

Well-executed plans require organizational structure before they can be successfully implemented, and the great leaders understood this. A properly structured organization builds and drives lines of accountability throughout itself. As the former Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, General Robert Wood [Sears] “ran the company along military lines: directors of hardware and research, for example, corresponded to army chiefs of ordnance or artillery. Channels of authority fell sheer from top to bottom, but autonomy rode down with them.” (1)

James Casey (United Parcel Service) started UPS as an adolescent, so he didn’t possess the military background that Wood had, but he “was an early and thoroughgoing advocate of what was called, in the 1920s, ‘scientific management.’ He believed efficiency produced profit. And he believed that efficiency was achieved by measuring everything – by keeping track of the cost (in time and money) of every step in the process of achieving a result – in this case, the result of successfully delivered packages that met customer expectations. Further, Jim Casey believed that whenever you found a process that improved efficiency, you made it standard practice and you supervised employees to achieve fidelity to that practice.” (2)

Wood and Casey were only a few of the great leaders who linked structure to action. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) and Thomas Watson Sr. (IBM) all built organizations where structure was also solidly linked to action. So did Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). “Rickover believed in courageous impatience. The power of unshakeable determination was critical for him, as good ideas do not get executed very often. Deciding what to do is the easy part … getting it done is more difficult. Being involved in details shows subordinates that if it’s not important to you … why should it be to them? When details are ignored, projects fail. This is not about doing things yourself; it’s about frequent reports (both oral & written) and from numerous sources (remember, he had 40 direct reports!!)” (3)

Peter Drucker observed, “Managers do not make decisions by opinions nor according to their preferences. They manage through the force of facts and not through the force of personality. ‘Bedside manners,’ I once heard Sloan say in a speech to GM managers, ‘are no substitute for the right diagnosis.’ ” (4)

(1) Doenecke Justus D., General Robert E. Wood: The Evolution of a Conservative (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society)
(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) Wacker Watts, Courageous Impatience (www.firstmatter.com)
(4) Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

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) $ 29.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about how the great American leaders linked organizational structure to action 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.
________________________________________________________________________
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

Great! is a Timely Reminder of the Boldness of Exceptional American Leadership, at a Time When America is Crying Out for Leadership

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At a time when America is crying out for leadership, Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It, and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)  is a timely reminder of the boldness of exceptional American leadership. Within its pages, it brings to life the names, stories, legacies and achievements of a number of truly remarkable individuals, some long forgotten by modern history.

Walter P. Chrysler, founder of Chrysler Motors, now the Chrysler Corporation stated, “An institution is the reflection of the people who guide it.” The dominant theme in Great! echoes Chrysler’s sentiments. Effective leadership does matter. Great leaders have a strong enduring influence and impact upon the performance of their companies. Great leaders build great companies.

The book is based upon the groundbreaking research of 160 influential American leaders, spanning over 235 years, from George Washington to Bill Gates. It places leadership into a historical context, illustrating how their concepts, principles and methods were developed, forged and evolved into contemporary leadership’s best practices.

Weaving together their words and stories into a rich fabric, Great! leads readers through the paths these individuals forged, the barriers, adversities and failures they weathered and the battles they fought for their personal beliefs and values. It details the bold and decisive actions they took in the face of economic downturns, depressions and financial panics, far worse than what the country is currently experiencing. Readers will be absorbed into the characteristics of the resolve, determination, persistence, perseverance and refusal to quit that differentiated them from their competitors.

Great! clarifies the numerous ways the great leaders took advantage of emerging opportunities, often creating demand for their products where none existed. Readers will discover just what made them grand architects, who were able to forge building blocks of growth while possessing a zeal for executing their plans and strategies.

The book spotlights how the dimensions of humanity, humility, empathy and compassion were woven into their characters, which are emphasized through factual accounts and stories. Great! reveals their perceptions of wealth creation and profitability, as well as organizational sustainability. It compares and contrasts them with many contemporary attitudes and practices.

Great! is intended to inspire readers to reclaim America’s greatness, one individual at a time. Step-by-step, the book illustrates the paths, values, beliefs and examples that the great leaders left for us to follow. It is a call to action for all who wish to become more effective, if not a great leader.

Additional information about Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It, and What You Can Learn From It, including the executive summary and a sample chapter can be viewed at http://www.whatmakesleadersgreat.com

Purchase Your Copy of Great!

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

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Kemmons Wilson - Holiday Inn

Without personal determination and resolve, persistence and perseverance quickly dissolve under intense and sustained pressures, especially those that are created by adversity and failure. By anchoring themselves in the strength of their personal vision, however, the great leaders were able to withstand both internal and external pressures, strife and feelings of defeat. This in turn, produced the fortitude and resolve to continue in their pursuits. George Washington’s personal vision of the creation of a republic is what gave him the strength to endure eight harrowing years of leading the American Revolution, and then more to lead the republic in its infancy as its first President.

Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) is another notable example of determination. As an entrepreneur from early on in his youth, he experienced a series of adversities and setbacks. “From the days when he first peddled The Saturday Evening Post as a youngster, through his founding of Holiday Inn, up to his creation of Wilson World and Orange Lake, he has stuck to his goals.” [1]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) faced overwhelming challenges when he initially launched his airline. He was immediately sued by his competition to prevent Southwest Airlines from making its first flight. He described his experience, “For the next four years the only business Southwest Airlines performed was litigation, as we tried to get our certificate to fly. After the first two years of defending lawsuits, we ran out of money. The Board of Directors wanted to shut down the company because we had no cash. So I said, ‘Well guys, suppose I just handle the legal work for free and pay all of the costs out of my own pocket, would you be willing to continue under those circumstances?’ Since they had nothing to lose, they said yes. We pressed on, finally getting authorization to fly…

Our first flight was to take off on June 18, 1971 and fly between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. I was excited about being in the airline industry because it’s a very sporty business. But the regulatory and legal hoops enraged me. I thought if we can’t start a low cost airline and the system defeats us, then there is something wrong with the system. It was an idealistic quest as much as anything else. When we brought the first airplane in for evacuation testing (a simulated emergency situation) I was so excited about seeing it that I walked up behind it and put my head in the engine. The American Airlines mechanic grabbed me and said if someone had hit the thrust reverser I would have been toast. At that point I didn’t even care. I went around and kissed the nose of the plane and started crying I was so happy to see it.” [2]

Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) went bankrupt during the Depression. “Faced with challenges that might have seemed insurmountable, he did what he had done since he was a boy—resolved to work hard and have faith in God. Others, it seemed, made up their minds to put their faith in Hilton. He was able to buy goods on credit from locally owned stores because they trusted his ability and determination to one day pay them back. As the kindness of others and his own ingenuity helped him rebuild his hotel empire to proportions previously unheard of, he solidified his commitment to charity and hospitality—two characteristics that became hallmarks both of Hilton Hotels and of the man who began them.” [3]

Walter and Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft) started their company during the Depression. “ ‘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 said she didn’t give much thought to the problems of starting a new company at a time when most airplane companies were closing, not opening. ‘Mr. Beech thought about that,’ she said. ‘(But) he had this dream and was going to do it. He probably didn’t know how long the Depression was going to last.’ The first few years were difficult, she said. They sold few airplanes. ‘We had to crawl back up that ladder.’ ” [4] Olive Ann Beech overcame additional adversity when she took over the company after her husband contracted encephalitis during the Second World War, and again, after he suddenly died in 1950.

Joyce Hall (Hallmark) saw his company literally go up in smoke three years after he started it, when his business burned to the ground. “Hall was $17,000 in debt when a flash fire wiped out his printing plant. Luckily, he was able to sweet-talk a local bank into an unsecured $25,000 loan, and he has not taken a step back since. By the late 1930s, Hallmark was one of the top three cards.” [5]

[1]  Success Secrets of Memphis’ Most Prolific Entrepreneur (Business Perspectives, July 1, 1997)
[2]  Kristina Dell, Airline Maverick (Time Magazine, September 21, 2007)
[3]  Gaetz Erin, Conrad Hilton’s Secret of Success (American Heritage People, August 2, 2006)
[4]  Earle Joe, Olive Ann Beech Rose to Business Greatness (The Wichita Eagle, February 11, 1985)
[5]  The Greeting Card King (Time Magazine, November 30, 1959)

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 fortitude, perseverance and resolve to continue 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, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

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