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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

Leaders do have control over the actions, behaviors and decisions that influence and shape their personal credibility. This once again involves self-awareness as well as comprehensive critical thinking abilities to examine the consequences of both their long and short-term actions. All leaders have choices, but the right choices demand a leader’s willingness and acquiescence.

“Bill [William Hewett] and Dave [David Packard] could be gruff and demanding but were seen as compassionate at heart. They agonized over layoffs and, according to company lore, would apologize for angry outbursts. They created one of the most humane workplaces in the United States. The founders also served as models of integrity. HP products were expensive but they were dependable. Wall Street could trust the numbers that Hewlett and Packard presented to analysts.”[1]

My research substantiates that the great leaders were compassionate and displayed empathy. There is a story about George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric) conducting a tour of his factories with visitors. In the course of the tour, the group observed a young man stumbling and falling while carrying a large copper plate. As the group laughed at the young man’s predicament, Westinghouse walked over and in his business suit, kneeled down and assisted the young man.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) has fostered compassion and empathy within his company. He took a personal interest in even the smallest events of his employees’ lives. Using their own initiative, his employees have in turn, routinely used voluntary payroll deductions to assist fellow employees with serious financial problems such as terminal illnesses.

In the quest for ever-increasing shareholder value, many contemporary leaders perceive empathy and compassion as a sign of personal weakness. Quite to the contrary, my research proves that the great leaders, especially those who were compassionate, were also strong leaders. There was nothing weak about them and their compassion and humanity didn’t diminish their performance. Most times it enhanced it.

An additional benefit the research revealed was that strong levels of compassion and empathy result in strong levels of trust and loyalty. Rather than diminishing shareholder value, the great leaders typically outperformed their competition.

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) “explains how [employee] meetings help him lead a fast-growing $ 6.4 billion global company with 90,000 employees, 9,700 stores, and 33 million weekly customers. ‘People aren’t interested in how much you know… It’s how much you care.’”[2]

Jack Welch (General Electric) noted the value of a compassionate leader, when he said, “If you have everything else you need in terms of talent and skill, your humanity will come to be your most appealing virtue to an organization.

Your team and your bosses will know who you are in your soul, what kind of people you attract, and what kind of performance you want from everyone. Your realness will make you accessible; you will connect and you will inspire. You will lead.”[3]

Related:

  1. Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership
  2. Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader
  3. Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Reference:

  1. Johnson Craig, The Rise and Fall of Carly Fiorina: An Ethical Case Study (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, November 2008)
  2. Meyers, William, Conscious in a Cup, (U.S. News & World Report) October 31, 2005
  3. Welch Jack, Get Real, Get Ahead (Business Week) July 23, 2007

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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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

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

Research Executive Summary – What Makes Leaders Great

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The following executive summary details the findings of my extensive research of 160 great and influential leaders, spanning 235 years.

The premise of my research is that in order to understand what defines effective leadership, one must study the actions and behaviors of the great leaders. If one examines this premise, then several questions become readily obvious:

  • How did some individuals earn the mantle of greatness?
  • What defines them as great, and what were they able to achieve that others did not?
  • What lessons can be learned and applied from the examples they provide?

My research and analysis aims to answer these questions, and specifically defines and focuses on the key reasons why specific individuals are considered great leaders, including:

  • They acquired legitimacy by establishing trust, credibility, respect and emotional bonds and standing with all of their key constituencies.
  • They were selfless, placing the needs of others before themselves.
  • They epitomized courage, competence and candor.
  • They consistently reflected their personal values of humility, empathy and humanity.
  • A prolonged period of adversity, disappointment, discouragement and failure early in their careers, defined their character, shaped their vision and values, refined their critical thinking and established their legitimacy as a leader.
  • They were able to identify and take advantage of major economic shifts to fuel the growth of their company into a dominant market leader.
  • They acquired the right skills and abilities to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
  • They were master architects and builders, immersing themselves in the details of their business.
  • They were practitioners of ruthless efficiency, improving the customer’s experience while driving down costs and increasing profit through market growth.
  • They exhibited the talent to execute and get things done, while acquiring a passion and zeal for the execution of their plans and strategies.
  • They exhibited proficiency as consummate masters of marketing and building emotional connections to their brands.
  • Many created a demand for their products and a market where none existed before.
  • They built high performing organizations by focusing on attracting the right people to their companies, and utilizing their individual strengths by placing them in the right jobs.
  • They exhibited the intellectual honesty to completely comprehend the reality surrounding their circumstances, employing a factual approach to decision-making, objectivity and open-mindedness.
  • They generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.
  • They generated stellar and balanced financial performance due to a long-term, strategic perspective, rather than through focusing on short-term profitability and shareholder-value.

SPECIFIC FINDINGS

Vision

The great leaders created strong, simple and deep visions that defined their purpose, shaped their thinking, and influenced their decisions.

  • They defined their major purpose in life, and staked their existence on achieving it.
  • They cultivated a strong, enduring and lifelong vision of where they wanted to go and what they wished to achieve.
  • They kept their eye on the ball through a sustained long-term focus.
  • They generated a mission focus, clearly specifying what they wanted to achieve.
  • They effectively prioritized to keep their organizations focused on what was important for accomplishing their vision and mission.

Values

The great leaders generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.

  • They acquired a deep sense of integrity and courage of their personal convictions.
  • They exhibited a strong moral compass, guided by deeply held religious values.
  • They developed and relied on a strong internal compass, incorporating it into their beliefs, guiding principles and core values.
  • They displayed unwavering principles and uncompromising ethical standards.
  • They possessed a deep personal sense of responsibility toward others.
  • They assumed a universal servant mentality, which was derived from personal empathy and humility.

Crucible

The great leaders experienced a prolonged period of adversity, disappointment, discouragement and failure early in their careers, which ultimately defined their character, refined their critical thinking and established their legitimacy as a leader.

Emerging Markets

The great leaders identified emerging market opportunities and trends that offered tremendous advantages.

  • They became market leaders in emerging markets.
  • They experienced tremendous levels of growth, fueled by dramatic expansions in their external markets.
  • The tremendous levels of growth allowed them to dominate their markets and industries.

Business Creation

The great leaders capitalized upon the opportunities presented to them.

  • They utilized the process of business creation and development to build a sound foundation for generating sustained profitability.
  •  They exhibited high degrees of confidence in themselves, and in their own ideas.
  • They boasted a strong sense of intuition, supported by wisdom and common sense.
  • They acquired accurate and circumspective thinking skills.
  • They persisted, refused to quit or accept defeat, fueled by their determination and resolve.

Capabilities

The great leaders acquired the right skills and abilities to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

  • They exemplified visionary thinking, anticipating the future with an acute sense of clairvoyance.
  • They embraced change to capitalize on new and emerging markets.
  • They perceived failure as a learning experience rather than as a defining event.
  • They used their failures to channel their thinking into a more fruitful direction.
  • They viewed mistakes and failure as an acceptable part of innovation.

Attention to Details

The great leaders conscientiously focused and immersed themselves in details.

  • They investigated new possibilities as imaginative, curious and investigative thinkers.
  • They employed thorough and adequate preparation.
  • They personally prepared themselves through in-depth study and analysis.
  • They accumulated a mastery of knowledge and expertise as life-long learners.

Intellectual Honesty

The great leaders carefully calculated the gains and consequences of their decisions so as not to place themselves or their companies in jeopardy.

  • They exhibited a sense of intellectual honesty for completely comprehending the reality surrounding their circumstances.
  • They employed a factual approach to decision-making, being objective and open-minded.
  • They permitted their actions and decisions to be challenged, while also challenging others’ thinking, perspectives and points of view.

Architects of Growth

The great leaders were architects and builders of growth.

  • They created detailed blueprints.
  • They forged building blocks of growth.
  • They fostered growth.
  • They built and grew their companies.

Ruthless Efficiency

The great leaders effectively practiced the concept of “ruthless efficiency.”

  • They improved the quality of their product.
  • They improved their customer experiences by building products faster and cheaper.
  • They did everything possible to drive down all associated costs.
  • They built and sustained profitability by increasing sales volumes.

Execution

The great leaders were masters of execution.

  • They acquired a passion and zeal for execution of their plans and strategies.
  • They exhibited the talent to execute and get things done.
  • They kept their finger on the pulse of their business.
  • They effectively linked structure to their actions.
  • They manifested a depth of personal commitment to execution.

Right People

The great leaders built high-performing organizations by focusing on attracting the right people to their companies, and utilizing their strengths by placing them in the right jobs.

  • They respected their employees as being valuable assets.
  • They recognized that their companies were comprised of people and not faceless assets.
  • They harnessed the organizational power of their people.
  • They empowered, motivated and inspired their employees through delegation and team building, and creating a supportive environment.
  • They exhibited the ability to effectively communicate sweeping strategies.

Marketing

The great leaders exhibited proficiency as consummate masters of marketing.

  • They built emotional connections to their brands.
  • They created a demand for product and a market for their products where none existed before.
  • They established the infrastructure to support innovation.

Organizational Reputation

The great leaders produced a strong organizational reputation that became a projection of their attitudes, values, decisions and actions.

Financial Performance

The great leaders generated stellar and balanced financial performance due to a long-term perspective, rather than by focusing on short-term profitability and shareholder-value.

  • They concentrated on their customers, not on creating wealth and developing shareholder value, considering both of these to be outcomes, not a primary driving force.
  • They leveraged resources to drive down costs.
  • They maintained a strategic focus on long-term growth to sustain their business.
  • They simplified their organization’s business process.
  • They acquired the operational savvy to deliver on quality financial goals.
  • They viewed value creation as a measurement tool, consistent with their vision and values.
  • They perceived wealth creation as a consequence of their strong vision and subsequent focus.

SUMMARY

The findings of my research substantiates that effective leadership does matter. Great leaders have a strong enduring influence and impact upon the performance of their companies. Unless their vision, values and practices are continued by their successors, the performance of their organization vastly diminishes after their retirement or departure.

Adapted from 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 how the great American leaders built great companies 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

Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

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Jack Welch - General Electric

The great leaders were tough-minded individuals. They developed a drive and tenacity that refused to allow them to quit, or to accept defeat. The years they invested in the trenches of frustration, failure and adversity taught them well.

Personal attitudes reflect how individuals choose to interact with their environment. The great leaders’ personal attitudes were instrumental in forming and building essential emotional bonds with key constituencies, and established personal standing among all groups. These began with their discipline, conviction and dedication. It was often reflected in both their outward humanity and humility. Jack Welch observed, “You do have to possess self-confidence and humility at the same time. That combination is called maturity.”[1]

This is in contrast to high levels of hubris displayed by many of the poorer performing executive leaders. Herb Kelleher would state when asked about his position at Southwest Airlines, “Position and title don’t necessarily signify anything. When people ask me what I do, I say I work for Southwest Airlines.”

Many of the great leaders developed a deep sense of humanity and humility because of their perspectives on money and profits. These individuals for the most part viewed profits as a result of their efforts, and not the objective. Money was openly distained by some. Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) refused to even carry money on his person. Walt Disney (Disney) was indifferent to both money and material comfort. Leo Baekeland (Bakelite), the inventor of plastic, is another example.

“Although he was a scientific genius and made a fortune, he disdained material things and remained a man of simple needs. He was happiest on his boat in old sneakers and white duck pants and shirt. In fact, he wore sneakers when he was formally dressed.”[2]

Additionally, many abhorred financial speculation. They viewed it as an illegitimate means of making money. (John Jacob) “Astor hated gamblers. He never confused gambling, as a mode of money-getting, with actual production. He knew that gambling produces nothing—it merely transfers wealth, changes ownership. And since it involves loss of time and energy, it is a positive waste.”[3]

Rather than believe in money and what it could do them, the great leaders had a deep-seated sense of self-belief. They believed in themselves, their abilities and in their own ideas. Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay) stated, “Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve… The greatest pollution problem we face today is negativity. Eliminate the negative attitude and believe you can do anything. Replace ‘if I can, I hope, maybe’ with I can, I will, I must.’”[4]

They had an incorruptible sense of purpose and duty, and were sensitive to their personal power, authority and influence on others. Many of these attitudes stemmed from their personal work ethic and the personal sacrifice they made to achieve their success. Adversity and failure produced humility rather than hubris and arrogance.

A notable example is Willis Carrier (Carrier Corporation). “He was a humble man and never used the letters in front of his name, and I don’t recall anyone calling him “Dr. Carrier” while he was alive. But out of respect to his great legacy, Carrier Corporation refers to him as “Dr. Willis Carrier” even today.”[5]

This sensitivity and humility also fostered deep respect and appreciation for employees’ contributions to their success. Before social responsibility was in vogue, George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric), John Patterson (National Cash Register), Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods) and William C. Procter (Procter and Gamble), among others, displayed their appreciation, gratitude and respect by greatly improving working conditions, building employee communities and introducing a host of employee benefit programs well before they were even formulized into law.

The great leaders were tough-minded individuals. They developed a drive and tenacity that refused to allow them to quit, or to accept defeat. The years they invested in the trenches of failure and adversity taught them well.

“Trials, labor, grief are but the fires in our lives, which are necessary to purify and bring out our virtues. In business, sacrifices are demanded of us… All these strengthen judgment… and cultivate resourcefulness.

Sacrifice establishes character… It takes the fire of sacrifice to clarify a man’s mind and heart so that he can establish the worthier ideals for himself.

A man who desires anything must be willing to go the whole way for it, not half way. No man gains anything in the way of power and privileges, who does not pay with a change in habits, thought and action.”[6]

[1] Welch Jack, Get Real, Get Ahead (Business Week, July 23, 2007)

[2] Flynn, Tom, Yonkers, Home of the Plastic Age (younkershistory.org/bake.html) Accessed April 21, 2010

[3] Hubbard, Elbert, Astor, A Famous Businessmen Biography (Zale Tabakman) Accessed January 19, 2010

[4] Ash, Mary Kay, (Mary Kay Inc. Corporate Website, 2010)

[5] Littlehales, Edna M., Uncle Willis the Educator (The Father of Cool, Carrier Company Website, June 14, 2002)

[6] Penney, J.C., Lines of a Layman (Channel Press, Great Neck, NY, 1956)p 118

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 how the great American leader’s personal attitudes were instrumental in forming and building essential emotional bonds with key constituencies, 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 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

Does Empathy Undermine Your Leadership Abilities?

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Leaders do have control over the actions, behaviors and decisions that influence and shape their personal credibility. This once again involves self-awareness as well as comprehensive critical thinking abilities to examine the consequences of both their long and short-term actions. All leaders have choices, but the right choices demand a leader’s willingness and acquiescence.

“Bill [William Hewett] and Dave [David Packard] could be gruff and demanding but were seen as compassionate at heart. They agonized over layoffs and, according to company lore, would apologize for angry outbursts. They created one of the most humane workplaces in the United States. The founders also served as models of integrity. HP products were expensive but they were dependable. Wall Street could trust the numbers that Hewlett and Packard presented to analysts.”[1]

My research substantiates that the great leaders were compassionate and displayed empathy. There is a story about George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric) conducting a tour of his factories with visitors. In the course of the tour, the group observed a young man stumbling and falling while carrying a large copper plate. As the group laughed at the young man’s predicament, Westinghouse walked over and in his business suit, kneeled down and assisted the young man.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) has fostered compassion and empathy within his company. He took a personal interest in even the smallest events of his employees’ lives. Using their own initiative, his employees have in turn, routinely used voluntary payroll deductions to assist fellow employees with serious financial problems such as terminal illnesses.

In the quest for ever-increasing shareholder value, many contemporary leaders perceive empathy and compassion as a sign of personal weakness. Quite to the contrary, my research proves that the great leaders, especially those who were compassionate, were also strong leaders. There was nothing weak about them and their compassion and humanity didn’t diminish their performance. Most times it enhanced it.

An additional benefit the research revealed was that strong levels of compassion and empathy result in strong levels of trust and loyalty. Rather than diminishing shareholder value, the great leaders typically outperformed their competition. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) “explains how [employee] meetings help him lead a fast-growing $ 6.4 billion global company with 90,000 employees, 9,700 stores, and 33 million weekly customers. ‘People aren’t interested in how much you know… It’s how much you care.’”[2]

Jack Welch (General Electric) noted the value of a compassionate leader, when he said, “If you have everything else you need in terms of talent and skill, your humanity will come to be your most appealing virtue to an organization. Your team and your bosses will know who you are in your soul, what kind of people you attract, and what kind of performance you want from everyone. Your realness will make you accessible; you will connect and you will inspire. You will lead.”[3]

[1] Johnson Craig, The Rise and Fall of Carly Fiorina: An Ethical Case Study (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, November 2008)

[2] Meyers, William, Conscious in a Cup, (U.S. News & World Report) October 31, 2005

[3] Welch Jack, Get Real, Get Ahead (Business Week) July 23, 2007

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 humanity, empathy, humility and compassion 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.

May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am

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