Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘persistence

How You Respond to Failure Defines You as a Leader

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Every one of us experiences failures and faces adversities. Our response defines us as a leader. 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 they were persistent. 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]

James Burke – Johnson & Johnson

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

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. [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.

Related:

If You Put Fences Around People, You Get Sheep

Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Do You Have Faith in Your People?

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

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storm

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Kemmons Wilson – Founder of 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]

Related:

Does Luck Play a Role in a Leader’s Success?

Are You Willing to Pay the Price to Succeed?

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose

References:

  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, 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

Are You Willing to Pay the Price to Succeed?

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Blank_Marcus

All of the great leaders I surveyed experienced what I describe as the Crucible Principle. It states that:

Individuals experience a prolonged, but undetermined period of adversity, disappointment, discouragement and failure early in their careers, which either refines them or breaks their spirits. How they respond to these circumstances will define their character, refine their critical thinking and establish their legitimacy as a leader.

Individuals who do not undergo crucible development early in their careers will not develop the critical thinking skills and character to handle adversities, problems and crisises that will arise in the future. This will result in more difficulties, which will place them at a disadvantage, and undermine their legitimacy as a leader.

Leadership greatness is achieved only after individuals experience an emotional caldron full of adversity, setbacks, failures and obstacles that refine both their character and their vision.

It is a period where courage and fortitude are tested and cultivated. In general, many individuals who experience the Crucible Principle encounter unrelenting waves of pain, disappointment, chaos, confusion and discouragement. They see no end in sight. They simply give up and quit.

“Resilience from the trials of life’s adversity has always been the filter that separates folk heroes from other leaders. Anthropologist Joseph Campbell profiled ancient leaders across cultures and revealed a shared ability to transcend crushing defeat.

This was rooted in a drive for a lasting legacy that can provide for a mythic sense of purpose to ‘triumph the despair and shame of failure. Setbacks actually challenge us to come back with an even greater sense of mission…

Many other great leaders, such as Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, Staples founder Tom Steiuherg and Jet Blue founder David Neelenian, created revolutionary enterprises only after having been fired as victims of power struggles.

Others, such as Autodesk’s Carol Bartz, led strategic transformations while battling life-threatening health crises; and some, such as lifestyle maven Martha Stewart, came back as a hugely successful leader following time served in prison. ” [1]

The existence of this principle and the number of times it surfaced was particularly surprising during the course of my research. The great leaders surveyed experienced difficult levels of adversity, including a sizable number of obstacles they had to overcome.

Success didn’t come easy to them, and it was far from automatic. They were relentless in the levels of persistence they demonstrated, buttressed by the strength of their personal vision. They refused to quit and accept failure. When they encountered failure, they picked themselves up and started over again, and sometimes more than once, until they ultimately succeeded.

The existence of the Crucible Principle was supported by the fact that the average age of the leaders surveyed who started their business or achieved their first major corporate position, was 34 years old.

This means between 13 to 16 years of their lives were spent working their way into a position of responsibility. This data is predicted on the assumption that most started working when they were between 18 to 21 years old.

Some notable examples include: Jack Welch, who started his career at General Electric as a junior engineer, almost left in frustration during his first year, Arthur Vining Davis (Alcoa) was the third employee to be hired at the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (Alcoa) as an assistant; and Arthur Blank (Home Depot), who began his career with the Handy Dan Hardware Company, where he worked for 14 years until he was fired as a regional manager.

An additional significant factor was the duration of the application of the Crucible Principle. My research establishes that it averages 12 years in length. This typically is a period filled with pain, heartache, frustration and failure.

The great leaders’ ability to succeed and prevail ultimately determined their future success. For any individual seeking immediate success, this should be an eye opening fact.

During my own younger years a personal mentor constantly reminded me: “The wheel of success turns very slowly.” Some notable examples of the Crucible Principle include Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), who waged a four-year legal battle before he flew a single passenger, just to incorporate and start-up his airline. During the early years of its existence, he was forced to sell one of his four airplanes to meet his payroll.

It took Joe Wilson, president of the Haloid Company, twelve years of frustration and continuous investment to commercialize a patent that he had purchased for xerography, to produce the first Xerox machine.

Jeff Bezos observed, “Optimism is essential when trying to do anything difficult because difficult things often take a long time. That optimism can carry you through the various stages as the long term unfolds. And it’s the long term that matters.” [2]

Once the great leaders emerged and achieved levels of prominence, they averaged 25 years in their positions. This does not mean that their lives were easy and carefree. These typically were periods of continuing conflict and adversity, yet they also were the most productive periods of their lives.

Malcolm McLean had founded a successful trucking business. Looking for a way to solve shipping bottlenecks and lower overall costs, he used his resources to develop containerizing cargo.

His innovations ultimately revolutionized the shipping industry through the standardization of an integrated system of containers, ships, railroads and harbor facilities. His ideas virtually impact the entire world due to the expansion of global trading.

Henry Flagler made his fortune as John D. Rockefeller’s partner at Standard Oil. He used his considerable financial resources to create the tourism industry in the State of Florida by building railroads and elegant resorts.

Related:

Does Luck Play a Role in a Leader’s Success?

Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose

Leaders Possess an Absolute Love for What They Do

References:

  1. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Fired With Enthusiasm (Directorship) April 1. 2007
  2. Rob Walker, 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 14, 2012 at 11:31 am

Book Review: GREAT! What Makes Leaders Great

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The pre-publication popularity of the best-selling book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is testament to the fact that the reading public is dazzled by great business leaders. While that book delves into the life and leadership of one iconic entrepreneur, GREAT! by Timothy Bednarz offers insight into the stories of 160 influential American leaders (not all from business). The book provides both historical context and a fresh perspective by drawing insightful conclusions about characteristics the leaders have in common.

Bednarz begins by identifying key factors of success that are reprised in later chapters. The second chapter establishes the platform for the broad approach of the book by summarizing the large number of operations (automotive, banking, e-commerce, industrial production, and innovation, to name a few) that have been transformed by the leaders spoken of in the text.

In subsequent chapters, the author addresses what these leaders have in common. The categories are quite general—for example, impact, motivation, character—but Bednarz uses them effectively to relate successful people from different types of careers and from different times. In a chapter titled “CAPABILITIES: The Masters of Their Universe,” Bednarz quotes Fred Smith of Federal Express, Admiral Hyman Rickover of the US Navy, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Estée Lauder of Estée Lauder, and Steve Jobs of Apple, among others. Snippets about such diverse leaders are included under the following subheadings: Persistence, High Degrees of Confidence, Intuition, Curious and Investigative Thinkers, and Masters of Knowledge and Expertise.

At the end of the book, Bednarz summarizes the key findings of the extensive research he conducted on the 160 individuals. He offers fourteen generalizations that provide keen insight into fundamental leadership traits, such as the following: “The great leaders generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.” Bednarz provides an appendix that explains the methodology he used in his research. He also lists other leaders he considered but did not choose for his study.

GREAT! is a fascinating, scrupulously documented work that weaves together the stories of great leaders in a readable format. While a few readers may balk at the rapid-fire delivery that incorporates a sometimes dizzying number of leaders into each chapter, Bednarz does a superb job of structuring the text into meaningful sections. Ultimately, GREAT! is a brilliantly conceived and cohesive work—a unique book about leadership that extends far beyond the business genre.

Barry Silverstein

Published by ForeWard Reviews – January, 2012 as a ForeWard Clarion Review

Copyright © 2012 ForeWord Reviews, Used with Permission

Read a Sample Chapter

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

Do You Believe in Yourself?

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Do you believe in yourself, your abilities and possess the confidence to succeed in life? It is impossible to develop a high degree of confidence without first having a strong sense of self-belief. This implies knowing without a doubt that you can do it, no matter what you realistically set your mind to do.  “Henry Ford had tremendous self-belief and he constantly preached on it. He would hire workers [who] didn’t know [the] understand the meaning of impossible and would keep pushing the limits of their imagination.” [1]

Estée Lauder (left)

Without a strong sense of self-belief, Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) would never have even taken her first steps forward. “A tireless believer in herself, in her wares, and in hard work, Lauder haunted a purchasing agent at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s classy department store, until she landed a small order. From there, she staked out her ever larger, ever more laden counters in the nation’s leading emporiums.” [2]

Self-belief fuels a strong sense of optimism. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) observed: “Optimism is essential when trying to do anything difficult because difficult things often take a long time. That optimism can carry you through the various stages as the long term unfolds. And it’s the long term that matters.” [3]

Self-belief and optimism provide effective leaders the means to overcome adversity and failure, as was exhibited by John Chambers (Cisco) when he saw his revenues collapse. “Cisco executives say Chambers always believed that Cisco would come out of the bust stronger. ‘We’re extremely optimistic that John Chambers will see to the success of all of us,’ says Mona Hudak, a Cisco manager. ‘We really are trying to build a great company that’s built to last,’ Chambers says.” [4]

Theodore Vail (AT&T) originally left AT&T after the initial investors did not concur with his vision of the company. After J.P. Morgan (J.P. Morgan Bank) acquired AT&T, Vail was brought back to implement his vision. “Vail’s determination and his confidence in the telephone company’s future were unshaken by the fact that the money market was dangerously sagging and recession loomed ahead.

“’When Mr. Vail came back to the telephone company as president,’ an executive at the Chicago associated company later recalled, ‘telephone men and the public generally recognized that somebody was there who not only knew the telephone business, but the world’s business, and it restored confidence.’ Vail was more than just a ‘telephone man;’ he was a knowledgeable entrepreneur, in his 20-year absence from the company, his successful business ventures had made him a millionaire several times over.” [5]

[1] Henry Ford – Leadership Case Study (http://www.leadership-with-you.com)

[2] Guzzardi Jr. Walter, The U.S. Business Hall of Fame (Fortune Magazine, March 14, 1988)

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

[4] Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)

[5] Fry Annette R., Man of Decision (Bell Telephone Magazine, March-April 1975)

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 self-belief and confidence 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.

July 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

How You Respond to Failure Defines You as a Leader

with 2 comments

Every one of us experiences failures and faces adversities. Our response defines us as a leader. 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 they were persistent. 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]

James Burke - Johnson & Johnson

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

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, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the self-reliance, 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 All Rights Reserved

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