Interview with Harvey Wagner Former CEO, Quovadx Leaders Speak Series Harvey A. Wagner was the turnaround CEO of Quovadx from 2004 through 2007. Quovadx was a $100 million, NASDAQ-traded software and services company with offices in the U.S. and Europe as well as some outsourced R&D in China. Customers were in the hospital and telecommunications markets as well as large financial institutions. The company was accused of accounting improprieties, went into a tailspin, and Wagner, ultimately, was asked by the board to turn it around. Quovadx merged with a subsidiary of Battery Ventures in 2007. Wagner is currently the managing principal of H.A. Wagner Group LLC, a strategic and business consulting firm. Previously, he served as a CFO or CEO of numerous firms, including Caregiver Services, Mirant Corporation, Optio Software, PaySys International, …Continue Reading
Interview with Steve Mushero Founder, CEO, & CTO, ChinaNetCloud Leaders Speak Series Steve Mushero is Founder, CEO, and CTO of ChinaNetCloud, a leading global provider of Internet Managed Services. Headquartered in Shanghai, China, ChinaNetCloud is a private company founded by Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs, with a team of system experts and support staff in Shanghai and Beijing. ChinaNetCloud offers server management and cloud computing, running mission-critical servers for over 150 Chinese and international customers. The company specializes in complex, multitier architectures for Internet-facing businesses, including e-commerce, gaming, SNS, new media, Web 2.0, mobile, and other web sites and systems. Steve Mushero has over 25 years of technology management experience across a wide range of industries in international contexts. He previously served as CTO at Tudou (China), Intermind, New Vine Logistics, …Continue Reading
Interview with Stephen Von Rump Co-Founder and CEO, Giraff Technologies Leaders Speak Series Stephen Von Rump is Co-Founder and CEO of Giraff Technologies AB. Giraff brings people together in the care of those living at home (e.g., the elderly). Giraff allows you to virtually enter a home from your computer via the Internet and conduct a natural visit by moving a robotic device with a video screen. You can move freely about the home simply by moving your mouse, and interact with the people there via videoconferencing. Those in the home don’t have to do anything. Von Rump has extensive consulting experience in startup and turnaround organizations, and has also held various R&D assignments at MCI and AT&T Bell Laboratories. He has served as the CEO of Be Here Corporation, Metreos …Continue Reading
Interview with Chip Baird Founder and Managing Director, North Castle Partners Leaders Speak Series North Castle Partners is a leading private equity firm headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, committed to creating extraordinary value for its companies, employees, investors, and communities. Charles (Chip) Baird, Jr., North Castle’s Managing Director, founded the firm in 1997. From 1989 to 1997, Baird served as a Managing Director of AEA Investors LLC. From 1978 to 1989, Baird was Executive Vice President at Bain & Company, an international consulting firm. From 1975 to 1977, he worked at The First Boston Corporation. Chip received an A.B. from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Here are excerpts of our interview with Chip Baird for Triple Crown Leadership: What is North Castle Partners’ approach to private equity? Baird: North …Continue Reading
The latest online ad from Nike shows a photo of Tiger Woods with the text, “Winning takes care of everything.” The phrase has long been used by Woods, and he recently regained his #1 ranking in golf after suffering through headlines in 2010 about his extramarital affairs. Woods’ behavior and infidelity were appalling, but our focus here is not on whether his current win streak redeems him. Some will forgive and forget; others will not. Our point is that the message of “winning takes care of everything” is both wrong and dangerous. It fits in a long strain of similar quotations, including one of the most common sports sayings: “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.” Nike dropped biker Lance Armstrong from its sponsorship lineup after the doping scandal. …Continue Reading
What will your leadership legacy be? Some will argue that the only real leadership legacy is the results you achieve. But are results all that matter? Too many leaders today get caught up in the game and pursue results at all costs, or look the other way when results are achieved illegally or unethically. How results are achieved matters greatly. Others may argue that the leader’s vision is what counts most. Yes, vision is critical, but vision without execution is futile. What about strategy? Yes, strategy is important too, but in today’s world, how many strategies survive more than just a few years before becoming obsolete? A strong argument can be made that the legacy of leadership is the leadership team one leaves behind: the quality, character, and competencies of …Continue Reading
Why are ethical breakdowns in organizations so common? Why do so many good people make bad decisions? Look at the “wall of shame” of organizations abusing trust recently: AIG, Barclays, Bear Stearns, BP, Countrywide Financial, Galleon Group, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING, Johnson & Johnson, Lehman Brothers, MF Global, Standard Chartered, Walmart, and many more. It’s not just business, by the way. Look at the doping scandal in cycling (and baseball). Look at Penn State University, the Boy Scouts, and the Catholic Church. Look at governments around the world, from India and Italy to China, Russia, and Venezuela. And there is no shortage of scandals in Washington, D.C. Look back a little and witness the stock options backdating scandal, then a little further to Arthur Anderson, Enron, MCI Worldcom, Global Crossing, …Continue Reading
Many leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership. Here are more examples, adding to our prior post, “10 Leadership Myths and Half-Truths.” Half-Truth: Leaders Hire the Most Competent People Yes, leaders hire for competencies and skills, but equally important is to hire and promote people with character, emotional intelligence, and cultural fit. We call it head and heart. Lynn Easterling, Senior Director, Worldwide Operations, Legal Services at Cisco, told us, “I can teach the hard skills, but I can’t teach good character or good relational skills.” Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet said, “I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is high energy level. But if you don’t have the first, the other …Continue Reading
Great leadership is a group performance, with leaders developing loyal followers and unleashing other leaders. Everyone has the potential to lead well, and everyone will have to lead at some point–in the office, at home, or in their community. In this age of budget cuts, how can leaders develop other leaders? Leadership is best learned through practice. Here are some ideas: • Rotate meeting leadership periodically among members of your team, with you supporting–and afterwards coaching–the meeting leader. (Must you be in control of every meeting?) • Assign people on your staff to represent your department at inter-departmental meetings, reporting back on activities. Seek feedback from peers at that meeting and then coach your colleague. (Must you be at every inter-departmental meeting?) • Pair people from different areas and …Continue Reading
Interview with John Bogle Founder and Former Chairman and CEO, The Vanguard Group Leaders Speak Series The Vanguard Group is an investment company with over $2.0 trillion in assets, offering mutual funds and other financial products and services. The investors who place money in the funds own Vanguard. Based on his undergraduate thesis at Princeton, founder and former chairman John (Jack) Bogle is credited with the creation of the first index fund and driving costs down in the mutual fund industry. Mr. Bogle founded Vanguard in 1975 and served as chairman and CEO of Vanguard until 1996, and senior chairman until 2000. He is now President of the Bogle Financial Markets Research Center. In 2004, TIME named Mr. Bogle as one of the world’s 100 most powerful and influential people, and Institutional Investor presented him …Continue Reading
Interview with Tom McCoy Former Executive Vice President, AMD Leaders Speak Series Founded in 1969, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NYSE: AMD), or AMD, is a Fortune 500, multinational, semiconductor company and the second largest global supplier of microprocessors behind Intel. Thomas M. McCoy joined AMD in 1995 as general counsel and secretary, later also serving as the Chief Administrative Officer. When we interviewed him, he was the Executive Vice President of legal, corporate, and public affairs, which also included strategy. McCoy is now a partner in the global law firm of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., where he chairs the Integrated Legal Strategies practice, counseling clients in high-profile and crisis management situations. He is a former member of the board of directors of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics …Continue Reading
Leadership a group performance? Ridiculous, you retort. Nevertheless, it’s true. Get over it. In this age of intense competition, information overload, and downsizing, no leader can do it alone. The amount of work coming into your Inbox is virtually infinite. The faster you turn it out, the faster new stuff roars in. So how do you cope? You recognize that the old leadership model of a leader developing followers and directing all their activities is obsolete. Of course leaders need followers, but they also need to unleash other leaders, even within the organizational hierarchy. The hierarchy is not going away, in spite of what some authors say about the lattice network and self-directed work teams. With rare exceptions, groups of people will always have a leader at the top. Sometimes …Continue Reading
Legendary football coach Lou Holtz, now retired and in the College Football Hall of Fame, had an uncanny ability to turn losing teams into winners. During his college coaching career, he compiled a record of 249 wins, 132 losses, and 7 ties. Holtz’s 1988 Notre Dame team was undefeated and determined to be the consensus national champion. Holtz said that players had three implicit questions about a new coach–the same questions the coach has about players. (See http://louholtzonline.tripod.com/holtzism.html.) These questions apply to any leader. 1) “Can I trust you?” Like life itself, leadership is all about relationships. Without trust, these relationships are superficial. People hold back, wait to see if they will be taken advantage of, and watch their backs. People wonder whether their leaders are in it for themselves …Continue Reading
Of all the leadership traps, none is more fatal than ego. When others around you are whispering how wonderful you are, how fortunate the group is to be led by you, then even the strongest of wills can break. Or, if you are so insecure that you must feed your own ego, then your leadership will fail. People will intuitively sense you are in it for yourself, not them. Greek myth celebrates the Oracle at Delphi, a powerful city-state around 1600 BCE, where entrances to various temples had inscriptions over their entrances, such as “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.” Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, celebrated the “golden mean,” the desirable middle between two extremes. Courage, for example, is the virtue between the two extremes of recklessness and cowardice. So it …Continue Reading
What do Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o have in common? They didn’t own up; they tried to cover up. In case you missed it, Manti Te’o is the All-American, star linebacker on Notre Dame’s football team, who was in the running this past year for the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award. Over an extended period, Te’o spoke of many heart-warming and heart-wrenching things in his life, including the death of his grandmother and a relationship he had with a girlfriend who was in a car accident, then suffered from leukemia and ultimately died, inspiring Te’o to more tackles on the field. Problem was, the “girlfriend” didn’t exist. Notre Dame carries the story that Te’o was the victim of a cruel hoax, …Continue Reading
Many leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership, often leading to major mistakes. Here are examples. LEADERSHIP MYTHS Myth 1: Leaders Are Born, Not Made Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. Some people may have more natural intelligence, be more outgoing, have innate speaking skills, or whatever, and these may be helpful in leadership. But leadership skills can be learned, not in the old lecture-take-notes model, but through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more. Leadership is learned, not an innate trait of the gifted few. Myth 2: Leaders Tell Others What to Do Many workers, especially younger ones today, don’t want to be told what to do. Give them a goal and a context in which to achieve it (like some shared …Continue Reading
Managers use their skills in stable environments. Leaders use their talents in the murky unknown, acknowledging control is an illusion, and having confidence in the team that, together, they will find a way through the chaos. Leaders courageously venture with colleagues into the unknown.
Some people want too much without putting in honest effort. They need to be challenged to step up. Some people just don’t fit an organization’s culture, or are toxic to others. They must become casualties. For those who remain, leaders, indeed, sacrifice themselves for them. Leaders serve those on the same quest.
Leaders are all around in families, schools, small businesses, nonprofits, fire stations, and town councils. Great leadership is indeed rare, but it is because many people disempower themselves, play the victim, or wait for some superhero to come to their rescue. Like the tramps in Beckett’s play, Godot never comes. It’s up to us, each of us, here and now, to follow at times, and to lead at opportune moments. Leaders are everywhere.
It would be nice to think leaders can always satisfy their constituents, but that is Hollywood. Leaders face reality, and not all stakeholders or followers are going to be happy all the time. Tradeoffs must be made; sometimes you sacrifice the long-term to stay alive; sometimes you tell investors to be patient while some long-term investments are made. Leaders adjust expectations to what truly can be achieved.
In a crisis, when an unpopular decision needs to be made, leadership can be lonely. Advice is taken, input solicited, but an unpopular decision can be lonely. Most of the time, however, good leaders are deeply connected with their constituents, honoring and respecting each other, constructively arguing, and forging an actionable consensus that many people execute. Leaders are deeply connected with people.
Indeed, there are times of political turmoil when leaders must protect their power. Leadership is a contact sport, not for their faint of heart, nor those with a thin skin. But most of the time, leaders empower others, sharing their power with other leaders. Leaders often give away their power.
Many workers, especially younger ones today, don’t want to be told what to do. Give them a goal and a context in which to achieve it (like some shared values to guide their behavior), and turn them loose. Respect their autonomy; check in now and then; remove roadblocks; and coach them on some difficulties. But don’t tell them what to do. Leaders elicit the greatness in others.
Yes, leaders have followers, but a more important dimension of great leadership is to unleash the leadership in others. In today’s complex world, no single leader can do it all, or has all the answers, even with loyal and committed followers. Leaders enlist followers and unleash other leaders.
Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. Some people may have more natural intelligence, be more outgoing, have innate speaking skills, or whatever, and these may be helpful in leadership. But leadership skills can be learned, not in the old lecture-take-notes model, but through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more. Leadership is learned, not an innate trait of the gifted few.
The New York Times broke another story on December 17 on the corruption at Walmart de Mexico and the unwillingness of senior leaders at their Bentonville HQ to pursue the allegations. Reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses to corroborate their allegations. Their findings allege that in one cited case (among 19 across Mexico) Walmart executives were not just paying off officials to expedite approvals that would have come anyway but were engaged in falsifying documents, circumventing laws, bribing officials throughout the country, and even excavating land with protected artifacts and treasures, all to get a store open before the holiday rush in 2004. When senior executives at Walmart’s HQ were alerted to the facts, they shut down the investigation …Continue Reading
Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. Some people may have more natural intelligence, be more outgoing, have innate speaking skills, and so on, and these may be helpful in leadership. But we believe leadership skills can be learned, not necessarily in the old lecture-take-notes model, but through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more. If leadership can be learned, then it can be taught. Leadership is learned, not an innate trait of the gifted few. What do you think? Have you developed your leadership capacities over the years? How? Have you helped to develop the leadership capacities of others? How?
Leadership insights from John Krol Former chairman and CEO, DuPont Leaders Speak Series E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as DuPont, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It was founded in 1802, and its stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. John Krol joined DuPont in 1963 as a chemist and rose through the ranks to be its chairman and CEO. He has been active on many corporate and nonprofit boards, including Tyco International (for which we interviewed him for Triple Crown Leadership). In that interview, Krol also shared insights on his leadership challenges at DuPont. Here are excerpts: Krol: Back in the 1980s, the world changed for DuPont because of globalization. We were very slow to move. DuPont was based …Continue Reading
For turnarounds to work, leaders must establish psychological stability in the organization. Too many turnaround leaders focus only on financial stability and neglect this critical element. In the turmoil of a turnaround, many people are demoralized, afraid, or angry. Some feel misled or on the verge of panic. Logo-inscribed ball caps stay in the closet. Some people bail quickly while others are out looking for new jobs. The turnaround leader must establish not only financial stability but also psychological stability. People need to be unfrozen, empowered to work on critical projects with confidence. At a successful turnaround Bob led, where the extreme negative cash flow flipped to healthy positive in a few years, he began to establish psychological stability through an all-day senior staff meeting early in the turnaround. Here …Continue Reading
Interview with Ursula Burns Chairman and CEO, Xerox Leaders Speak Series Ursula M. Burns is chairman and CEO of Xerox. With sales approaching $23 billion, Xerox (NYSE: XRX) is the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management. Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and then worked her way up to the top. Alongside then-CEO Anne Mulcahy, Burns worked to restructure Xerox through its turnaround. Burns became CEO in 2009. Today, she leads the 140,000 people of Xerox who serve clients in more than 160 countries. Burns is also a board director of the American Express Corporation and provides leadership counsel to the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export …Continue Reading
Interview with John Krol and Ed BreenTyco International Leaders Speak Series John Krol was elected to Tyco’s board in 2002 and served as lead director until 2008. He is the former chairman and CEO of DuPont. Edward Breen was chairman and CEO of Tyco from 2002 until September 2012, when the company separated into three public companies. Breen is currently non-executive chairman of the Tyco board. Prior to joining Tyco, Breen was president and COO of Motorola. Krol and Breen took over the leadership of Tyco International after its former CEO and CFO were jailed. The company, once a Wall Street darling, had fallen into an abyss. We interviewed them about their early leadership moves at Tyco for Triple Crown Leadership: What were the priorities when you arrived at Tyco? …Continue Reading
(Note: This blog was originally written by by Mike Critelli, Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes. We have edited it down for length on our website. View the complete version here.) Pitney Bowes built a wonderful set of businesses that have served it well for 92 years. The Company is challenged now because a major growth driver for physical mail, the expansion of consumer credit, declined in 2008, and probably will not return to its pre-2008 levels for at least a decade. This means that the Company will need to reinvent itself in ways that drive growth that are not dependent on mail volume levels. There are failed and successful reinventions at other iconic companies as well. Eastman Kodak is a sad case of a company that attempted on numerous …Continue Reading
Interview with Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos Leaders Speak Series Tony Hsieh is CEO of online retailer Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, a #1 New York Times best-seller. You can also find him on Twitter (@Zappos) and working with community leaders in Las Vegas to rejuvenate the city. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you describe the organization’s leadership approach? Hsieh: We have a strong belief that in order for employees to want to stay with the company long-term they need to be continually learning and developing both personally and professionally. We have a team here called the “pipeline team.” The vision for them is that almost everyone that we hire will be entry-level. We will …Continue Reading
From Lance Armstrong to David Petraeus, how can leaders make so many bone-headed decisions? Leaders need an easy-to-use, bulletproof test for their decision-making. We offer one here. Bob recently attended sessions at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, where Stanford Professor Joseph Grundfest led some fascinating dialogue. We extrapolated the model that follows from that interaction. It is simple, memorable, and powerful: 1. Is it legal?2. Is it ethical?3. Is it smart? Is It Legal? The minimum threshold for all decisions is “Is it legal?” Too many leaders rationalize illegal behavior: • “The chances of getting caught are so small.”• “I’m smart enough to get away with it.”• “Everybody’s doing it.”• “I deserve it.”• “It really isn’t hurting anybody.” Of course, if you are caught, you’ll wonder later how you …Continue Reading
Interview with Mike Critelli Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes Leaders Speak Series Mike Critelli was the CEO of Pitney Bowes (PB) from 1994 until 2007, continuing afterwards as Executive Chairman until 2008. (Check out Mike’s blog: “Open Mike.”) PB, a leading provider of customer communication technologies, was one of the eleven companies identified by Jim Collins as “great” in Good to Great based on its financial performance. PB has also been a perennial award winner in many categories, from one of the top 200 companies for U.S. patents issued every year to a wide array of awards in leadership, technology, diversity, health, environment, and more. Here are excerpts from our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. What were some …Continue Reading
Culture is simply “how we do things here,” a set of beliefs and habits that influence how people behave. Culture forms over time and determines what happens when authorities are not present, setting the tone for the organization and the norms for acceptable behavior. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote, “…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” Every organization has a culture, explicit or implicit. Explicit is better because it means the leaders understand the importance of culture and are paying attention to it. A healthy culture doesn’t guarantee success, but it provides the foundation for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. We call this a culture of character. How can leaders build a culture of character? Here are four …Continue Reading
Interview with Four-Star General Jack Chain Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command Leaders Speak Series The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was responsible for America’s land-based strategic bombers and nuclear, intercontinental ballistic missiles from 1946 to 1992. General Jack Chain was Commander-in-Chief of SAC from 1986 to 1991. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization: What was your approach to leadership when you took command of SAC? Chain: The day after I was sworn in I invited all the officers and senior sergeants on the base in for a beer, told them who I was, my background, what I expected from them, and what they could expect from me. Then I went out to all 52 bases in …Continue Reading
Why do you want to lead? All too often, the answer has breadcrumbs back to ego. The drivers may be disguised in other terms such as recognition, status, power, money, or competitiveness. But it ultimately comes back to ego. Bob recalls an executive who worked with Washington politicians. The executive described the mentality he observed all too often as, not just wanting to defeat an opponent, but to destroy him, burn the body, and then salt the earth over the ashes so the opponent could never rise again. Frightening. Looking at this, psychologists might find some underlying insecurity or inferiority complex, driving some people to extremes. Often, they resort to cutting ethical corners, believing such actions are necessary to get ahead. The ability of the human mind to rationalize its …Continue Reading
“You know what a jerk is when you see it.” -Bob Diamond, Former CEO of Barclays Bank(Source: The Guardian) As CEO, Bob Diamond terminated 30 Barclays Bank staff in 2011 for breaking his “no jerks” rule. Diamond said six staff, who ran up a £44,000 lunch tab in London, epitomized “jerk” bankers. He said the rule applied to bankers who are prima donnas, too greedy, too ostentatious, or poor team players. How do you identify the jerks? When does a valuable maverick cross the line into Jerk-Land? How do you decide who to coach—and who to fire? Here is our custom-built Jerk Identification System: * Ball Hog: Doesn’t play well with others. Wants the limelight. How to Handle: Emphasize the need to let others shine. Watch closely. * Mutterer: Doesn’t …Continue Reading
“Building a Values-Based Company” Interview with Bob Hatcher President and CEO, MidCountry Financial Corporation Leaders Speak Series MidCountry Financial Corporation is a financial services holding company. Over the past ten years, it has acquired several financial companies, some of them troubled, blending them into a new, values-based organization. We interviewed Bob Hatcher, its founder, president, and chairman. Please tell us about MidCountry Financial Corporation. Hatcher: We have about 315,000 customers and 1,200 team-members, operating in 19 states. We’re a group of community banks and finance companies, taking retail deposits and providing retail loans, mortgages, consumer loans, and small-business loans. Total assets are $1.4 billion. One of our operations, Pioneer Services, which provides financial services to the military, has been named twice as a “best place to work” small business. Our banks get rave …Continue Reading
We’re all busy. There’s nothing wrong with hard work. To the contrary. Working hard can help us achieve at higher levels and deepen our impact. Here’s the problem: glorifying busy. Using it as a tool to impress. This viral Internet meme—“stop the glorification of busy”—has hit a nerve with people far and wide lately. Busy is the new sexy. Busy is the new sexy. For leaders, it rankles in two ways. First, running us down. Life and work have their natural rhythms and occasional shocks. If we run all-out all the time, we have nothing left when a real sprint is needed. The wear and tear on our health and resilience can do great damage. Second, the herd effect. This glorification disease is contagious, and it can run …Continue Reading
“Breakdowns and Trans-Generational Culture” Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director, Institute for Enterprise Ethics, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series Why do so many organizations break down? In recent years, some major corporations have had breakdowns and made significant mis-steps (e.g., BP, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota). We interviewed Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver, to get his insights into what happened. This is the first in a new series—the Leaders Speak Series—in which we interview leaders about pressing topics. BP made some bold pronouncements about sustainability and corporate responsibility but then ran into major problems with the infamous Gulf oil spill in 2010. What happened? Dr. Sweeney: There is often a wide divide between what is said in the …Continue Reading
“The grass always looks greener beyond your cow pies.” -(We made that up.) Tempted to switch organizations? Bigger responsibilities, title, pay? Before you make the move, find out what the culture really is. Unless, of course, you’re a serial job switcher only interested in how fast you can become a VP. This blog is not for you. Good luck. (You’ll need it.) Culture matters. Culture is simply how people behave in an organization. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote: “…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” According to a recent Booz & Company global study: “Culture matters, enormously. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture.” So …Continue Reading
(Note: Bob and Gregg Vanourek co-authored this blog with By Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver) Few corporate executives have provided as powerful a role model as James E. Burke, former CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson. He worked at J&J for 40 years and died on September 28, 2012 at the age of 87. We will miss his presence, showing us the way, and encouraging us to be better than we thought we could be. Jim Burke’s leadership produced an extraordinary company. During Burke’s tenure as CEO and Chairman, J&J’s revenue and market capitalization tripled, and its profits quintupled. His crisis management during the famous Tylenol recall, and his performance as a genuine steward of the J&J “Credo” demonstrated his …Continue Reading
Indecisiveness, loss of control, delayed decisions, anger, and outrage. We’re not talking about the blown calls of the unfortunate Division III refs thrown into the national spotlight due to a labor dispute. We’re talking about the National Football League, arguably the greatest sports organization in the world. How could the NFL have botched it so badly? What leadership lessons can we learn from this fiasco? The NFL incurred huge brand damage for the piddly dollars involved (about $3 million) for the 121 regular, unionized referees. League revenue is just under $10 billion. The League locked out the regular refs in a labor dispute (ditto the players last year). Pressure to settle the lockout mounted after a blown call that changed the …Continue Reading
Hats off to slugger Miguel Cabrera for winning the Triple Crown batting title in baseball this week. Cabrera, who plays for the Detroit Tigers, led the American League division of Major League Baseball for the year with the highest batting average, most home runs, and most runs batted in (RBIs). The last player to accomplish this impressive feat was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Only 15 baseball players have won the Triple Crown. Cabrera finished the regular season with a .330 average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBIs. (In 1967, Yastrzemski had a .326 average, 44 homers, and 121 RBIs.) (This) is “a remarkable achievement that places him (Cabrera) amongst an elite few in all of …Continue Reading
The power of living and leading in accordance with our values is extraordinary. Values are an essential foundation for our quality of life and leadership. When we take time to discover our core values and have the courage to honor and fight for them, our lives are richer and our contributions deeper. How to do so? Begin by asking probing questions: What are my convictions about what is good and worthy? What do I believe in? What will I fight for in my life and work? Answering these questions helps you clarify your personal values. Without knowing your values, how can you live and lead by them? For an example of the power of values in practice, take integrity, a common personal …Continue Reading
Sprinkle Joy. -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets of others with kindness and consideration. A bucket dipper does things that make others feel bad. (The metaphor of bucket fillers/dippers is based on the work of Dr. Donald O. Clifton, later enhanced for schools by Merrill Lundgren, the “bucket man.” The concept is similar to the late Stephen R. Covey’s concept of “emotional bank accounts” from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. According to Covey, we build up trust instead of …Continue Reading
Whistleblowers play an important role in divulging ethical breaches, but we must reframe their role in order to preserve the ethical imperative in organizations. Unethical behavior is rampant nowadays. We see it across the board. We see it in business (e.g., Walmart bribery scandal, LIBOR scandal, Peregrine scandal, and many more); in universities (Harvard, Penn State, Emory, and more); in nonprofits (Boy Scouts, Three Cups of Tea, United Way, and more); and in sports (even catching Lance Armstrong recently). Many governments have passed whistleblowing statutes but usually through a patchwork of laws that sometimes conflict. Even worse, the whistleblower is often viewed as a traitor in the organization—and sometimes subject to retaliation. What’s more, there is a stigma here. Think about “tattle tales,” for example—a real putdown on the playground. …Continue Reading
Startups are thrilling. It’s hard to beat the excitement of launching an innovative new venture. The excitement is palpable, and it leads to a kind of euphoria in the venture’s culture. But too often that initial euphoria descends into culture deflation, like the air leaking out of a tire. First it slows you down. Eventually it brings you to a stop. The magic disappears. We’ve seen it in startups, and it ain’t pretty. But it is avoidable. Though a strong organizational culture is critical in startups, it is a blind spot for most entrepreneurs. Many founders take culture for granted, letting it emerge and evolve haphazardly. They dive into the day-to-day struggles of venture-building and putting out fires. Meanwhile, they don’t notice as the culture slowly fades into a pale …Continue Reading
Secretariat was robbed. In 1973, the thoroughbred known as “Big Red” had won the Triple Crown in spectacular fashion, setting the Kentucky Derby record and demolishing the Belmont Stakes record with a time that is still the world record today, winning by an astonishing thirty-one lengths. But Secretariat’s legacy was marred by a clock malfunction at the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness. Big Red beat Sham in that race, but his time was a full second short of the Preakness record. But something was amiss, and controversy swirled immediately. Two clockers for the Daily Racing Form had separately timed the race much faster–indeed, at a record-setting pace. The Maryland Racing Commission agreed that the automatic timer had probably malfunctioned and lowered the race time by three-fifths of …Continue Reading
Sad and shocking news from Harvard yesterday: about 125 undergraduate students are under investigation for possibly sharing answers or plagiarizing on a take-home final exam in a single course. (See here for background.) Harvard President Drew Faust said the following about the disturbing events on the Crimson campus: “These allegations, if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends.” The students in question have been called to appear before a review board. Unfortunately, Harvard is not alone in this struggle. In K-12 education, as we wrote this week in a guest editorial, a fuller picture recently emerged about what has been called “one of the most brazen cheating scandals in the nation.” According to two investigations, the founder and CEO of a …Continue Reading
Hats off to the Olympic champions. Competitors like Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas, and Michael Phelps inspire us. They reawaken our dreams. We admire their talent, dedication, and sheer grit. We revel with them in their gold. But let’s look deeper to the faces behind the gold—all the people who made it possible for these champions to stand atop the podium. We tend to focus only on the athlete. It’s hero fixation. In thoroughbred racing, we focus only on the horse (as opposed to the jockey, trainer, owner, and whole racing team). In business, only the CEO. But across all these domains, excellence is a group performance. Excellence is a group performance. The Lightning Bolt. Usain Bolt, the electric and transcendent Jamaican sprinter, is a textbook example of succeeding on talent …Continue Reading
What injustice! How unfair! World-class athletes disqualified from the Olympics even though they were within the rules. Think again. The Badminton World Federation got it right when it disqualified eight women’s doubles players for purposefully throwing matches in order to face easier opponents in the round-robin tournament. (For background on this Olympic badminton controversy, click here.) The Olympic Games are not just about winning gold. They’re not just about fierce competition. They’re not just about personal and national glory. They’re also about excellence. And ethics. And endurance. (We call it the Triple Crown.) Consider the Olympian Pledge from days of old: “Ask not alone for victory. Ask for courage. For if you can endure, you bring honor to yourself. Even more, you bring honor to us all.” Consider the Olympic …Continue Reading
One of the great icons of our time, Stephen R. Covey, passed away this week. This giant of an intellect with the soul of a child cannot be replaced. His insights into the nature of people, his wisdom, his writing, his speaking, his work and service, his example, his integrity, and his just-plain common sense helped millions of people around the globe become better people and better leaders. It is an astonishing legacy. Covey’s call for “principle-centered leadership” was prescient for what our world so sorely needs today. We are confident that his family, colleagues, and others will carry on the seminal work to which he contributed so much. We certainly plan to try. We were thrilled when Covey and his son, Stephen M. R. Covey, agreed to write the …Continue Reading
Barbara Kellerman and Jim O’Toole, two leadership experts we respect, are ticked off about the failures in leadership we witness virtually every day. (See “Mad About Leadership” in Strategy+Business, June 2012). Think of all the leadership-related scandals recently: Recent Leadership Hall of Shame Barclays Bear Stearns BP Countrywide Financial Galleon Group GlaxoSmithKline Goldman Sachs Johnson & Johnson Lehman Brothers MF Global Penn State Walmart Yahoo! It’s a long list—and getting longer with a disturbing frequency. Think also of the problems and mishaps we’ve seen from Wall Street mavens, K Street lobbyists, feckless regulators, subprime companies, credit ratings agencies, and more. Atrocious. Kellerman’s new book, The End of Leadership, takes the “leadership industry” (organizations seeking to grow leaders) to task for failures to develop leaders who avoid these blowups. …Continue Reading
Rajat Gupta’s storybook life has taken a dark turn. An orphan from Kolkata, India, Gupta moved to the U.S. to attend Harvard Business School on a scholarship. He ascended to the top (Managing Director) of McKinsey, one of the world’s most prestigious consulting companies, and advised the world’s elite. After retiring, he joined the boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, and American Airlines’ parent company. Soon he may be in prison. A jury found him guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking insider information—boardroom secrets—to his new friend and colleague, Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire hedge fund manager (now serving an 11-year sentence for insider training at Galleon). What happened? Just Evil and Greed? Simply a case of a bad man getting what he deserved? Not likely. Gupta maintained …Continue Reading
34 years. That’s how long it’s been since a Triple Crown. It was way back in 1978 when Affirmed won the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing with 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen aboard. This year, Cauthen wasn’t invited until the last minute to Belmont Park to see if I’ll Have Another could dethrone him with 25-year-old jockey Mario Gutierrez riding. Cauthen politely declined and played golf instead. Probably smart, since I’ll Have Another was wisely scratched with tendinitis before the race, disappointing millions of fans worldwide, and Union Rags, rested for the last five weeks, went on to narrowly win at Belmont in a photo finish. Controversy has swirled around the stable of I’ll Have Another, owned by businessman J. Paul Reddam. A former philosophy professor, Reddam said he left academia …Continue Reading
One of the cruel ironies of our time is that with such incredible access to information, many leaders are drowning in data and bogging down in complexity. They drink through a fire hose of reports, analytics, blogs, and tweets. Mobile devices blessedly update and painfully distract. At some point, the choices become debilitating, especially with the clamor for near-instant responses to just about everything. For leaders, it is one of the mega-challenges of our time. This challenge is also a great opportunity. For those up to the task, it can be a powerful source of competitive advantage, one that comes from focus—exceptional, sustained focus in the face of swirling distractions. How can leaders maintain exceptional focus? * Smart Choices. First, leaders must choose wisely what to focus on. They must …Continue Reading
On May 18th Facebook’s IPO lumbered to close at $38 and change, barely above the opening price but valuing the firm at over $100 billion. Quite an accomplishment for a company started in a college dorm in 2004 as “thefacebook” and one “not originally created to be a company,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We use the metaphor of the Triple Crown in horseracing to illustrate the endeavor to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations. So, we ask, is Facebook an emerging triple-E organization? To us, excellent means exceptional performance, making your numbers in your chosen field. Facebook’s $3.6 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit last year are stunning, as are its 800 million+ monthly users. But Q1 revenue and profits were down. Facebook lags in the sizzling-hot …Continue Reading
The quest for the Triple Crown is on. Big time. I’ll Have Another is in the hunt for the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing, the most elusive championship in all of sports. It’s been 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Since 1875, only eleven horses have earned that honor, racing within a short span of five weeks to victory in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Now the stables of J. Paul Reddam with trainer Dan O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez have positioned I’ll Have Another to win this coveted crown, joining legends like War Admiral, Citation, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew in the pantheon of champions. I’ll Have Another has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. On June 9 the eyes of the sporting …Continue Reading
Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. “The world is not interested in the storms you encountered,” says Norman Augustine, the aerospace businessman and former U.S. Army official, “but in whether or not you brought the ship in safely.” Perhaps he took his cue from Winston Churchill. When asked about the Allies’ aim in World War II, he replied, “I can answer in one word. It is victory.” Exemplars can be found in different domains. We associate excellence in leadership development with General Electric and its famous Crotonville training programs. We associate excellence in brand management with Procter & Gamble. Among hospitals the standard of excellence is set at places like Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, and Mayo Clinic. It’s a fair question today to ask whether achieving …Continue Reading
Is it just us, or are we bombarded by negative news? • NewsCorp scandal and cover-up • A Goldman Sachs exec resigning in disgust in an op-ed read around the world • Walmart corruption in Mexico • Hyperpartisanship and focusing on scoring political points instead of solving real problems What do all these negatives have in common? Failures of leadership. Fed up with bad leadership? We are. Concerned about the state of the world? Us too. But we remain optimistic nature nonetheless. We have an abundance mentality, not a scarcity worldview. (Check out Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, a good read.) We believe we don’t have to re-slice the same-sized pie. With the right leadership, we can make the pie bigger …Continue Reading