Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘skills

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

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Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

It is often easy to attribute the success of great and influential leaders to pure luck. Undoubtedly, some turned out to be the right person in the right place at the right time. However, they also had to have the right skills and abilities to build on the opportunities presented to them.

“[Andrew] Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) was well aware that his success was in large part the result of being in the right place at the right time. Obviously, he had business and personal skills to help carry him, but Carnegie was introduced to the right industry (telegraph), where he met the right businessmen, who then introduced him to investing and the steel industry.

And this just wasn’t the steel industry that we see today. It was the steel industry in the times of America’s expansion west. Hundreds of thousands of railroad miles, a majority made from Carnegie steel.” [1]

P.T. Barnum (Ringling Brothers & Barnum Circus) noted, “There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street today, and another tomorrow, and so on, day after day: He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it.

‘Like causes produce like effects.’ If a man adopts the proper methods to be successful, ‘luck’ will not prevent him. If he does not succeed, there are reasons for it, although, perhaps, he may not be able to see them.” [2]

While luck and happenstance do play varying roles, success is more attributable to creativity, hard work, foresight and preparation. Take the example of James J. Hill (Great Northern Railway) where “part of the notable accomplishment of Hill and his associates lay in simple luck…

But more important were Hill’s talents: his remarkable mastery over every detail of what was now a far-flung operation, his vision of the inevitable triumph of transcontinental through-carriers, his insufferable iron will and work ethic, and his recruitment of an able coterie of men…” [3]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) observed, “‘Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.’ Despite all his hard work, Kroc was not always a lucky man.

From his early days in starting up McDonald’s to even after the chain was a well-established global presence, Kroc experienced his fair share of failures. He was not immune to disappointment; what set Kroc apart from his competitors, however, was how he learned from his failures and bounced back.” [4]

For Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods), “success was not simply a matter of luck. Having learned from his past failures, he had become a shrewd and astute businessman.” [5]

The skills and characteristics the great and influential leaders employed enabled them to identify and maximize the opportunities that presented themselves. These individuals may have been lucky in being at the right place at the right time, but far more was required to capitalize upon available opportunities, which were presented to them. Many others at the same time were presented with similar opportunities.

Yet they failed to achieve similar levels of success. This was because they didn’t possess the same skills, competencies and knowledge to understand what was needed to grasp the significance of the opportunities, and the actions and practices to maximize them.

Related:

  1. Leaders Possess an Absolute Love for What They Do
  2. Did You Ever Want to Just Give Up and Quit?
  3. Do You Believe in Yourself?

References:

  1. Begley Jonathan, Book Review: Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw (http://jonathanbegley.wordpress.com, January 5, 2010
  2. Barnum P.T., Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money (Self-Published)
  3. Michael P. Malone, James J. Hill – Empire Builder of the Northwest (University of Oklahoma Press – Norman 1996) p. 150
  4. Use Failure as a Catalyst for Success (greatmanagement.org, February 12, 2009)
  5. Milton S. Hershey (www.ideafinder.com)

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 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

“Success is the Sum of Details”

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Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire) stated, “success is the sum of details.” The great leaders uniformly paid extraordinary close attention to details.

It is an important attribute or aspect of their thinking. It influenced virtually every aspect of their lives, which ranged from ruthless efficiency to product quality, to how they treated their employees. As architects of growth, their attention to detail allowed them to formulate comprehensive plans and blueprints, which supported the building and growth of their companies.

Many leaders like James J. Hill (Great Northern Railway), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) and Robert Wood (Sears) all devoured as much data and information as they could get their hands on, to generate detailed plans and blueprints for their business, as did William Boeing (Boeing) and John Jacob Astor. Bill Gates (Microsoft) “also has incredible focus and knowledge of his industry. As Ross Perot once noted, ‘Gates is a guy who knows his product.’ ”

In addition to paying close attention to details, the great leaders developed unparalleled competence and expertise through years of experience. They all emerged from long and dark valleys of frustration, disappointment, adversity and often failure, which tested their mettle, polished their skills and competencies and generated deep levels of perseverance and resilience.

None of the great leaders surveyed ever appeared to succeed without first enduring what I call a long and frustrating “crucible period.” These experiences and the lessons gained within this “crucible period” allowed them to possess the necessary skills, experience and expertise to take advantage of opportunities presented to them. They were able to recognize them for what they were, and knew how to plan and profit from them.

A notable example is Theodore Vail (AT&T). He “left the post office service to establish the telephone business. He had been in authority over thirty-five hundred postal employees, and was the developer of a system that covered every inhabited portion of the country.

Consequently, he had a quality of experience that was immensely valuable in straightening out the tangled affairs of the telephone. Line by line, he mapped out a method, a policy, a system. He introduced a larger view of the telephone business… He persuaded half a dozen of his post office friends to buy stock, so that in less than two months the first ‘Bell Telephone Company’ was organized, with $450,000 capital and a service of twelve thousand telephones.” [1]

In 1902, one hundred years after it was founded, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly known as DuPont, was sold by the surviving partners to three of the great-grandsons of the original founder, led by Pierre du Pont. He had grown up in the family business and had developed the necessary expertise to assume control over it. He understood the associated problems, issues and weaknesses that needed to be rectified, and drafted and executed the necessary plans to transform the company.

“As chief of financial operations, Pierre du Pont oversaw the restructuring of the company along modern corporate lines. He created a centralized hierarchical management structure, developed sophisticated accounting and market forecasting techniques, and pushed for diversification and increasing emphasis on research and development.

He also introduced the principle of return on investment, a key modern management technique. From 1902 to 1914, Pierre kept a firm rein on the company’s growth, but with the onset of World War I he guided DuPont through a period of breakneck expansion financed by advance payments on Allied munitions contracts.” [2]

As a primary supplier of paints and lacquers required for automotive production, DuPont became a major investor in General Motors. Pierre DuPont replaced William Durant, the company’s founder, as CEO. DuPont made a key decision in promoting Alfred Sloan to the office of president. Sloan developed a detailed blueprint that transformed GM into the largest industrial company the world had ever known at that time.

He “created structure so people could be more creative with their time and have it be well spent. He also came up with the idea that senior executives should exercise some central control but should not interfere too much with the decision making in each operation.

It is difficult to describe many of Sloan’s ideas because most of them would seem like common concepts of a business, yet they were new and innovative at the time. Largely due to his invention, GM became the pioneer in market research, public relations and advertising. Before Sloan, people had totally different conceptions of these common parts of the American corporation.” [3]

Due to Sloan’s success, his corporate model highly influenced the development of the modern American corporation. His theories were actively practiced for over 50 years and remained unchallenged until Jack Welch’s (General Electric) influence permeated the mid-1980s.

Related:

  1. Do You Have the Talent to Execute Get Things Done?
  2. Linking Structure to Action
  3. The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

References:

  1. Casson Herbert N., The History of the Telephone. Chapter II (February 1, 1997)
  2. Pierre S. du Pont: 1915 (www2.dupont.com)
  3. Alfred P. Sloan, Inventor of the Modern Corporation (Invent Help Invention Newsletter, August 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

Empowerment is a Structured Discipline

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Just as organizational improvement is an ongoing process, so too is empowerment. Specific factors combine to define the empowered environment that must be in place if the organization is to work effectively and efficiently.

Leaders should understand that employees have a wide range of discretion when it comes to contributing or withholding efforts. The goal of empowerment is to motivate employees to contribute maximum effort to the success of their unit’s activities and, ultimately, the company.

Many employees will contribute as little as possible within the range of their job description and responsibilities. When leaders empower their employees, they are motivated to contribute not only increased effort to the accomplishment of their own duties, but also more ideas, concepts and insights. When collaborative efforts, ideas, concepts and insights are combined in an empowered atmosphere, it translates into sustainable success and improved results for the company.

Leaders are the main impetus for creating an empowered atmosphere within their organization. They know the strength of empowerment is achieved when such an atmosphere is created at all levels of the organization, and that they have the power and authority to remove the barriers to empowering their employees. In this manner the organization is able to gain the momentum to move forward and grow as a whole. The factors discussed below help create an empowered atmosphere when put into place.

Employees Understand What Is Expected of Them

Employees must be taught to appreciate that a transition to an empowered atmosphere is a pivotal change for the organization. Minimal efforts and contributions are no longer accepted—not in terms of a disciplinary approach but in terms of employees understanding their role in the company’s success and how individual efforts contribute to that success. Often these changes are greeted with skepticism, which changes once employees see that the leader’s words are backed by consistent actions.

Employees must understand that a choice to more deeply involve themselves by contributing their ideas, concepts and insights benefits not only themselves but also their associates and coworkers.

Related: Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Goals and Measurements Are Consistently Applied

A critical factor of the empowered environment is the consistent application of goals, standards and measurements. When this is implemented it creates an atmosphere of trust and credibility throughout the company because employees understand they are all being treated fairly and consistently. They know what is expected of them and how those efforts will be measured. If they fail to meet those standards, they know the penalties. They also are aware that when they exceed the standards they will be rewarded and recognized.

When employees understand the objectives of their company and unit, the current performance goals and targets of their team or workgroup, and the limits on their decision-making authority, they are empowered to make consistent decisions without the leader’s guidance.

Related: Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Employees Are Given the Skills and Tools to Perform Effectively

More than merely a word, empowerment is a method of tapping the human resources within an organization. Employees cannot work in this environment without first being trained according to the concepts of empowerment and teamwork; they must be provided with the skills and the tools to perform effectively. Leaders understand that a fully developed, empowered environment is a process that requires time to implement. It takes time to train, coach, monitor and develop the skills and tools that facilitate organizational change.

Related: Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Frequent and Immediate Recognition of Contributions

Recognition is one of the most powerful motivators in the workplace. The Westinghouse studies of the 1930s recognized this concept and determined that employees are more motivated by personal recognition than financial benefit. An empowered environment must factor in frequent and immediate recognition of subordinate contributions. Additionally, leaders play a major role in this critical factor: while everyone expects to be recognized for their major successes, the real impact is when leaders reward employees for their small contributions. In some companies, leaders actively search to catch employees doing something right and then reward them on the spot. The impacts of these programs have dramatic effects on employee performance.

Related: Motivation Is More Than Money

Employees Provided with Positive Feedback and Communication

Another essential role of leaders in the empowered environment is to actively communicate with employees and provide them with positive feedback. The leader is facilitating change and empowerment by motivating and assisting the individual subordinate to meet his or her goals or objectives. This is in contrast to a manager or supervisor who is directing and disciplining employees when they fail to perform. Contrasting the two styles highlights a differing focus on negative and positive behaviors.

Employees and Leaders Perform with Discipline

Empowerment is not a haphazard management fad but a structured discipline within the organization. It allows employees to contribute their individual efforts at their maximum capabilities and thus allows the company to harness a largely untapped resource. Since it is a disciplined approach, all leaders and employees are directed to work within the parameters established by the goals, objectives, standards and measurements of the organization. Barriers and constraints are removed, but all employees are still working within and toward the entire organization’s goals. There are rewards and penalties delivered to maintain discipline and to motivate employees.

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

Excerpt: Organizational Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 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

The Art of Becoming a Leader

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Managers who lead seek out opportunities, evaluate their potential and take decisive action to either pursue them or not. In order to involve employees in the process and instill a sense of unified, collective effort, managers depend upon their personally consistent, determined and trustworthy leadership styles.

Leadership styles should not be confused with attitudes. Some managers adhere to restrictive and bureaucratic styles to compel employees to produce results. They are unable to tolerate failure and mistakes. The resulting attitudes they display suggest that they believe no one else in the work environment is as important, indispensable and powerful as they are.

Managers as leaders work with and through their employees. They use their leadership skills to identify opportunities and motivate their department or unit members to achieve increased results through appropriate and decisive action.

Related: Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

All leaders tend to develop their own individual, comfortable ways of getting things done. Some managers believe their styles reflect how they personally act and respond, when in fact they are simply based on how they prefer to function within roles, assignments and responsibilities. Though leadership styles vary, all have specific elements that ultimately define success or the lack thereof.

This is important for managers desiring to become effective leaders. Successful leaders employ a results-oriented style that both motivates individual employees to stretch their abilities and communicates a passion for the accomplishment of their vision. More importantly, effective styles incorporate specific elements to ensure leadership success.

Managers who desire to become effective organizational leaders need to develop comfortable individualized styles for achieving results and actualizing their visions. This includes:

Related: The Person in Charge Must Be Concerned About the Details

Being Continually Prepared

Most organizations are experiencing rapid changes due to the thrust of technology and volatile market conditions. Traditional supervising managers often tend to wait for events to occur and conditions to change before taking action. Consequently they are always a step or two removed from being on top of things and taking control of situations. This results in an ongoing series of reactionary moves and positioning strategies.

Leaders, on the other hand, make it a point to anticipate trends and economic conditions and are always prepared to make a move once they sense the timing is right. They are prepared to take the necessary steps to address challenges head on, and have defined specific ways to meet them. They don’t wait for conditions to improve or opportunities to open up before they begin to pursue their course.

Related: Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

Continually Acquiring Knowledge

Managers who lead understand the need for continuous learning and the ongoing search for professional knowledge. They know that knowledge combined with expertise turns risks into acceptable opportunities.

While many people tend to judge managers’ actions as peril-ridden and hazardous, in reality most are averse to risk taking. They take great care to explore all opportunities and carefully analyze and calculate all involved risk factors. Leaders only move when they know the risks involved are minimized, and that the odds of obtaining positive outcomes are in their favor. What appears to be venturesome behavior is actually decisive action, as they only act on their evaluations and analysis after they have reviewed all the facts.

Related: Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Seeking Out All Available Opportunities

Opportunities can take different forms, not all of which are obvious or readily observable. Careful tracking of industry and economic trends produces indicators of future behavior that may present lucrative openings. Always on the alert for subtle opportunities, they make it a point to anticipate, prepare for, and take advantage of each one when the time is right.

Using Appropriate Timing Factors

Managers are decisive in their actions—not rash. Before specific actions are taken, great care is taken to observe trends and opportunities and weigh them to determine appropriate and effective timing factors. If mistakes are made in timing, judgments are generally not far off. This is an important element in market-sensitive, volatile times.

Making Hard Choices

Managers understand that opportunity is often accompanied by difficult choices. Rapid changes in market or customer conditions may require them to make choices that directly shift focus and resources to more profitable departmental pursuits and away from certain activities or existing methods that produce languishing or diminishing results or profitability.

Related: The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Developing Persuasive Ambition

Managers who lead have an inexhaustible drive that allows them to take control of situations and events in order to make things happen. Their ambition is limited only by their vision of the things that can be accomplished and how they can go about achieving them. Their foresight is not viewed from a personal standpoint, but is based upon overall cooperative employee effort. Managers are always looking for ways to motivate and make things happen through persuasive, determined and passionate leadership.

Sharpening Intuition

Leaders develop a heightened sense of intuition that assists them in identifying trends and opportunities. Their intuition is fine-tuned through personal experiences and by learning from the successes and failures of others.

Related: “Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

Being Decisive

Action-oriented by nature, managers who lead are proactive rather than reactive. Neither rash nor indiscriminate, they use objective facts, input, and evaluative processes as well as their intuition to spot trends and possible opportunities. Once they determine that the odds of obtaining positive results from specific opportunities are in their favor, they take immediate action to pursue them.

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

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices effective leadership practices to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Leadership: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series.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

Success is the Sum of Details

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Harvey Firestone - Firestone Tire

Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire) stated, “success is the sum of details.” The great leaders uniformly paid extraordinary close attention to details. Throughout this book it is frequently referenced, since it is an important attribute or aspect of their thinking. It influenced virtually every aspect of their lives, which ranged from ruthless efficiency to product quality, to how they treated their employees. As architects of growth, their attention to detail allowed them to formulate comprehensive plans and blueprints, which supported the building and growth of their companies.

Many leaders like James J. Hill (Great Northern Railway), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) and Robert Wood (Sears) all devoured as much data and information as they could get their hands on, to generate detailed plans and blueprints for their business, as did William Boeing (Boeing) and John Jacob Astor. Bill Gates (Microsoft) “also has incredible focus and knowledge of his industry. As Ross Perot once noted, ‘Gates is a guy who knows his product.’ ”

In addition to paying close attention to details, the great leaders developed unparalleled competence and expertise through years of experience. They all emerged from long and dark valleys of frustration, disappointment, adversity and often failure, which tested their mettle, polished their skills and competencies and generated deep levels of perseverance and resilience. None of the great leaders surveyed ever appeared to succeed without first enduring what I call a long and frustrating “crucible period.” These experiences and the lessons gained within this “crucible period” allowed them to possess the necessary skills, experience and expertise to take advantage of opportunities presented to them. They were able to recognize them for what they were, and knew how to plan and profit from them. A notable example is Theodore Vail (AT&T). He “left the post office service to establish the telephone business. He had been in authority over thirty-five hundred postal employees, and was the developer of a system that covered every inhabited portion of the country. Consequently, he had a quality of experience that was immensely valuable in straightening out the tangled affairs of the telephone. Line by line, he mapped out a method, a policy, a system. He introduced a larger view of the telephone business… He persuaded half a dozen of his post office friends to buy stock, so that in less than two months the first ‘Bell Telephone Company’ was organized, with $450,000 capital and a service of twelve thousand telephones.”

In 1902, one hundred years after it was founded, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly known as DuPont, was sold by the surviving partners to three of the great-grandsons of the original founder, led by Pierre du Pont. He had grown up in the family business and had developed the necessary expertise to assume control over it. He understood the associated problems, issues and weaknesses that needed to be rectified, and drafted and executed the necessary plans to transform the company. “As chief of financial operations, Pierre du Pont oversaw the restructuring of the company along modern corporate lines. He created a centralized hierarchical management structure, developed sophisticated accounting and market forecasting techniques, and pushed for diversification and increasing emphasis on research and development. He also introduced the principle of return on investment, a key modern management technique. From 1902 to 1914, Pierre kept a firm rein on the company’s growth, but with the onset of World War I he guided DuPont through a period of breakneck expansion financed by advance payments on Allied munitions contracts.”

As a primary supplier of paints and lacquers required for automotive production, DuPont became a major investor in General Motors. Pierre DuPont replaced William Durant, the company’s founder, as CEO. DuPont made a key decision in promoting Alfred Sloan to the office of president. Sloan developed a detailed blueprint that transformed GM into the largest industrial company the world had ever known at that time. He “created structure so people could be more creative with their time and have it be well spent. He also came up with the idea that senior executives should exercise some central control but should not interfere too much with the decision making in each operation. It is difficult to describe many of Sloan’s ideas because most of them would seem like common concepts of a business, yet they were new and innovative at the time. Largely due to his invention, GM became the pioneer in market research, public relations and advertising. Before Sloan, people had totally different conceptions of these common parts of the American corporation.” Due to Sloan’s success, his corporate model highly influenced the development of the modern American corporation. His theories were actively practiced for over 50 years and remained unchallenged until Jack Welch’s (General Electric) influence permeated the mid-1980s.

[1]  Maury Klein, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 106-107

[2]  Casson Herbert N., The History of the Telephone. Chapter II (February 1, 1997)

[3]  Pierre S. du Pont: 1915 (www2.dupont.com)

[4]  Alfred P. Sloan, Inventor of the Modern Corporation (Invent Help Invention Newsletter, August 2004)

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 leaders attention to details to build plans and blueprints and formulate strategies for their business, 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

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

What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

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Andrew Carnegie

It is often easy to attribute the success of great and influential leaders to pure luck. Undoubtedly, some turned out to be the right person in the right place at the right time. However, they also had to have the right skills and abilities to build on the opportunities presented to them.

“[Andrew] Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) was well aware that his success was in large part the result of being in the right place at the right time. Obviously, he had business and personal skills to help carry him, but Carnegie was introduced to the right industry (telegraph), where he met the right businessmen, who then introduced him to investing and the steel industry. And this just wasn’t the steel industry that we see today. It was the steel industry in the times of America’s expansion west. Hundreds of thousands of railroad miles, a majority made from Carnegie steel.” [1]

P.T. Barnum (Ringling Brothers & Barnum Circus) noted, “There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street today, and another tomorrow, and so on, day after day: He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it. ‘Like causes produce like effects.’ If a man adopts the proper methods to be successful, ‘luck’ will not prevent him. If he does not succeed, there are reasons for it, although, perhaps, he may not be able to see them.” [2]

While luck and happenstance do play varying roles, success is more attributable to creativity, hard work, foresight and preparation. Take the example of James J. Hill (Great Northern Railway) where “part of the notable accomplishment of Hill and his associates lay in simple luck… But more important were Hill’s talents: his remarkable mastery over every detail of what was now a far-flung operation, his vision of the inevitable triumph of transcontinental through-carriers, his insufferable iron will and work ethic, and his recruitment of an able coterie of men…” [3]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) observed, Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.’ Despite all his hard work, Kroc was not always a lucky man. From his early days in starting up McDonald’s to even after the chain was a well-established global presence, Kroc experienced his fair share of failures. He was not immune to disappointment; what set Kroc apart from his competitors, however, was how he learned from his failures and bounced back.” [4]

For Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods), success was not simply a matter of luck. Having learned from his past failures, he had become a shrewd and astute businessman.” [5]

The skills and characteristics the great and influential leaders employed enabled them to identify and maximize the opportunities that presented themselves. These individuals may have been lucky in being at the right place at the right time, but far more was required to capitalize upon available opportunities, which were presented to them. Many others at the same time were presented with similar opportunities. Yet they failed to achieve similar levels of success. This was because they didn’t possess the same skills, competencies and knowledge to understand what was needed to grasp the significance of the opportunities, and the actions and practices to maximize them.

[1]  Begley Jonathan, Book Review: Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw (http://jonathanbegley.wordpress.com, January 5, 2010)

[2]  Barnum P.T., Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money (Self-Published)

[3]  Michael P. Malone, James J. Hill – Empire Builder of the Northwest (University of Oklahoma Press – Norman 1996) p. 150

[4]  Use Failure as a Catalyst for Success (greatmanagement.org, February 12, 2009)

[5]  Milton S. Hershey (www.ideafinder.com)

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 role of luck and happenstance in the lives  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.

August 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

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