Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Category Archives: Ethics

52 Trust-Building Ideas

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Want 52 great ideas for how to build trust in your organization? The annual Edelman survey reveals that less than 20% of business and government leaders are trusted to tell the truth, or that they make moral and ethical decisions. See their 2013 data below. Survey Respondents Distrust Our Leaders Such lack of trust is devastating. Trust Across America–Trust Around the World asked their worldwide experts for their ideas on trust building and designed a powerful wall poster: “52 Ideas that You Can Implement to Build Trust” Contributors include such luminaries as Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner, Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Doug Conant, Stephen M. R. Covey, Bill George, and many more. (I’m proud to have three ideas listed.) This wall poster sells for $7, but I’ll send a pdf of it   …Continue Reading


A Leadership Lightning Bolt

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by Bob Vanourek Early in my leadership quest to “find a better way to lead,” I had the wonderful pleasure to work for Jan and Olga Erteszak, Polish immigrants who had fled the Nazis in Europe and then founded a ladies’ lingerie company in Los Angeles. The Olga Company was the creative leader in this industry, designing and producing fashionable lingerie, sleepwear, and loungewear. I learned so much about creativity from Jan and Olga because we literally practiced creativity in meetings. What fun as we stretched our imaginations. One memorable day, Jan, with a wink and that crooked smile of his, gave me some pamphlets to read written by Robert Greenleaf. Knowing my burning interest in leadership, Jan quipped, “I think you’ll find these interesting.” The message was ages old   …Continue Reading


The Ethical Challenges Faced by Leaders

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  Image credit: Public Domain  “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” -James MacGregor Burns We all face ethical challenges and dilemmas, and all the more so if we lead. Think how you would act in the following scenarios: You give the cashier a $10 bill, and she gives you change for a $20. You realize it in the parking lot. Do you trudge back and give her the money? You incur some personal charges on a business trip. Do you fudge some expenses to help cover these costs? Do you overestimate your charitable contributions on your tax form to minimize your reported profit and taxes. Your boss asks you to cover for him with some false excuse while he is absent from work   …Continue Reading


The Dangers of Toxic Micro-Cultures

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Image credit: Painting by Leah Saulnier www.paintingmaniac.com   Does your organization have some toxic micro-cultures? If so, you ignore them at your peril. Much is written these days about the importance of culture in boosting an organization’s success. Strategy is important, as are talent, business models, innovation, and more. But culture, “how we do things here,” as we like to define it, can be the trump card, because it permeates everything in an organization. Culture is what people do when the boss is not around. Wise leaders craft the culture purposefully and make the desired behaviors explicit and clear. Culture can have a big impact on whether people act ethically, honorably, and responsibly. For example, when direct supervisors were observed to behave unethically: 42% of employees felt pressure to behave   …Continue Reading


The Triple Crown of Leadership

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  The sports world is abuzz with excitement. We may have our first Triple Crown winner since 1978, when Affirmed captured what has been called “the most elusive championship” in all of sports. California Chrome is poised to accomplish this incredible feat on June 7 if he can win at Belmont Park. This unlikely horse, bred in California for only $10,000 with a 77-year-old trainer, has won his last six races. Since 1875, only eleven thoroughbreds have won the Triple Crown, including such iconic names as War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, Seattle Slew, and of course, perhaps the best of them all, Secretariat. Pictured above, Secretariat won the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, in 1973 by a world-record 31 lengths in a time that has yet to   …Continue Reading


Rationalizations that Derail Leadership

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“The softest pillow is a clear conscience.” Narayana Murthy, Co-founder and former CEO, Infosys   Our ability to rationalize our behavior is astonishing. And dangerous. Basically, we all have a good sense of what’s right or wrong, but we have an inherent ability to talk ourselves into believing that something that’s wrong is really okay. We’re all good at this self-deception, especially when under pressure. Leadership is a moral activity. When done well, it raises people up and brings out their best. Successful ends do not justify unethical means. The journey and the destination must both be based on moral principles if we are to enlist people to follow us willingly from their hearts. Of course we can’t change human nature, and some people are of weak character, easily seduced   …Continue Reading


The Role of Values for Leaders & Organizations

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 Our colleague in leadership,  Harvey Kaufman, edited down one of his longer pieces on alignment so that we might share some of his wisdom and insight here.   A few years ago, I attended a Corporate Social Responsibility conference.  As you might expect (although I didn’t) a major focus of the conference was how to market social responsibility efforts to attract business.  The case for simply “doing good” as a reflection of an organization’s core values was absent from our discussions.  This made me think about the role of values in organizations and why it is important for companies to practice their values in day-to-day interactions with employees and customers.   While there were companies who employed them effectively earlier, core values emerged as an organizational mainstay in the 1970s.  They followed the social   …Continue Reading


Three Responsibilities of Great Leadership

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Great leadership has many responsibilities: Safeguarding your colleagues Serving your stakeholders Making tough decisions Planning for succession And much more However, certain responsibilities are critically important and do not get the time and attention they deserve. Here are three. 1) Commit to the triple crown quest of building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. The primary message of Triple Crown Leadership is this: make building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization the overarching priority of your organization. Excellent means achieving exceptional results that have significant, positive impacts on stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, and communities. Ethical means acting with integrity, even when it’s costly or hard, always paying attention to how the results are achieved. Enduring means standing the test of time and operating sustainability when it comes to people and   …Continue Reading


The Ten T’s of Trustworthy Leadership

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Guest Blog by Barbara Kimmel #1 Trustworthy leadership – A culture of trust cannot exist with an untrustworthy leader. Trustworthy behavior must start at the top and flow down through every person in an organization. Trust should not be confused with compliance. Being “legal” is not synonymous with being trustworthy. #2 Transformation – Productivity and exceptional execution begin when the CEO and leadership team synthesize a set of values and goals that are shared, accepted, and adopted by all stakeholders. #3 Tools – There are many trust tools leaders can use to build trust with their stakeholders, running the gamut from metrics and assessments to online surveys. #4 Treatment – The Golden Rule says to “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Leaders who extend trust to stakeholders are   …Continue Reading


Moral Leadership: Not Just For The Pulpit

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Guest Blog by Dr. Daniel Sweeney Most responsible students of leadership recognize the importance of organizational leadership, strategic leadership, project leadership, and other types of leadership in business organizations. But moral leadership in the workplace? That seems a bit ethereal. I would suggest moral leadership is at the core of all leadership. Moral leadership is about the stuff that is not written down anywhere. It might even not be talked about openly among the executives of the organization. Moral leadership is not about policy; it’s not about compliance; it’s not about mission statements or values statements–but it impacts all these. Moral leadership is important when people have to deal with situations no one ever expected to arise. Moral leadership is “doing the right thing” in public based on one’s personal   …Continue Reading


Life’s Leadership Lessons in Lots of L’s (Over 100, Just for Fun)

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By Bob Vanourek Leaders aren’t loners, nor are they letter-perfect, lily-white, lazy, lordly, or loud-mouthed.  Leaders don’t lie, loot the limelight, feel locked by conventional limits, pay lip service to things, leer, or lecture people. Leaders often share lunch at the local eatery with colleagues, listening deeply and looking carefully. Leaders set a lodestar that inspires people to follow. Leaders break logjams, lightening the load on others. Leaders are both logical and emotional at the appropriate time. Leaders are loyal and engender loyalty in others. Leaders respect the law and are level-headed. Leaders lend a hand to others and know when to let go, leaving the unessential behind. Leaders lay aside resources for the inevitable lousy days, living lean in the meantime. Leaders are lifelong learners,  drawing lessons from experience   …Continue Reading


Top 10 Triple Crown Leadership Blogs

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 Our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, just turned one year old! In celebration of this happy event, we are sending out a special edition newsletter featuring our top ten blogs over the past year.      TOP 10 LEADERSHIP BLOGS: 1: The Glorification of BusyWe’re all busy. There’s nothing wrong with hard work. Here’s the problem: glorifying busy. Busy is the new sexy. The viral Internet meme—“stop the glorification of busy”—has hit a nerve with people far and wide lately. …Continue Reading 2: Are Leaders Born or Made?Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. We believe leadership skills can be learned through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more.  …Continue Reading 3: 10 Leadership Myths and Half-TruthsMany leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership, often   …Continue Reading


Ethical Decision-Making: Simple Tests

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Photo: iStock   When it comes to ethical challenges, we are all tested at some point. Leaders are tested most when they are under duress. Many leaders are ill-equipped to navigate the ethical minefields awaiting them in the swirl of fast-changing competitive markets and new technologies. Drawing insights from terrific books like Ethics (for the Real World), by Ronald Howard and Clinton Korver, and Courage: The Backbone of Leadership, by Gus Lee with Diane Elliott-Lee, here are some examples of simple tests that leaders can take before making ethical decisions:  Mirror Test. Imagine making the decision and then look at yourself in the mirror. How do you feel? What do you see in your eyes? Does it trigger alarm bells, violate your principles, or summon a guilty conscience? Front Page Test. Imagine   …Continue Reading


Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

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Photo: iStock   No matter where you work or live, when it comes to ethics one thing is clear: you will be tested. Ethical pitfalls are all around us. Often you stumble upon them suddenly. Your ethics are tested most when you are under duress (with stress, pressure, or fear). Here is a partial list of what you’re up against: If you work in the world of business… Are you under pressure to withhold damaging information? Lowballing estimates in order to increase the chances of getting an order? “Cooking the books” to deceive analysts or investors? Paying bribes in markets where that is common or expected, reasoning that you must “pay to play”? Pulling sales from the next quarter to meet your targets for this one? Posing as a customer   …Continue Reading


What to Do If You Work For a Jerk

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  So your boss is a jerk.  What to do? Of course, how to approach it depends on the severity of the situation, but here are some tips: 1. Go Lean. You may have to make a change, so you need money in the bank. That’s not tapping into your 401k or IRA. You need six to twelve months of basic living expenses in a liquid account. Cut down on discretionary expenses (lunches and dinners out, subscriptions, etc.) and delay new purchases (new tablet, TV, etc.). There are few things worse than having to stay in a toxic situation because you can’t afford to leave. (Note that many people use this as an excuse to avoid dealing with tough issues, even though they could make it work.) By going lean,   …Continue Reading


Is Your Organization Headed for a Breakdown?

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Is your organization or team headed for a breakdown? Organizations emit warning signs before breaking down, but the financial signals, such as revenue declines, shrinking margins, and deteriorating working capital ratios, are lagging indicators. Leading indicators are much more important because you can address them before the financials go south. Using our triple-crown framework, here are 20 indicators of organizational breakdowns: Focusing too much on strategy shifts instead of accountability for results Creeping complacency Cutting ethical corners when the pressure is on  Not building ethics into day-to-day processes and decisions Falling prey to short-termism Neglecting integrity, cultural fit, and emotional intelligence in talent selection and promotions Failing to invest adequately in developing leaders with character Not seeking input from everybody in the organization regarding purpose, values, vision Failing to inculcate   …Continue Reading


Big Questions for New Graduates

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  New Graduates, Congratulations on your big achievement. The exams are now over, the assignments all in. As you celebrate and revel in the memories of achievements, experiences, and friendships, we advise that you also pause to reflect on some important questions. Many of you have made a big decision about what comes next—often in the form of a job or further schooling that signals a career direction. So here’s the question: Why? Why did you choose that? Where will it take you? How does it fit with your values and aspirations for who you will be and what you will do with your life? Does it fill you with a sense of purpose? Does it provide you with opportunities to learn and serve? Will you get to work with   …Continue Reading


Tilts: Short- vs. Long-Term?

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Some people wonder whether triple crown leadership requires giving equal priority to “excellent,” “ethical,” and “enduring” considerations.   Many ask, “Don’t we have to sometimes tilt toward the short-term results just to survive, thereby, sacrificing the long-term?” Others may wonder, “In my business everyone is cutting ethical corners. How do we survive?” Of course, sometimes temporary “tilts” are required between the “three Es.” Sometimes short-term considerations must take precedence in order to save the organization. Heavy criticism may follow, but it will be moot if the organization goes out of business. At other times, the reverse is needed: leaders must be willing to dampen expectations for short-term results to make the critical, long-term investments needed. In each case, it is essential to be transparent, explaining to all stakeholders the rationale   …Continue Reading


Bending the Focus of a Company

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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


The Job of a Lifetime: Leading an Incredible Transformation

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Interview with Nancy Tuor Former Group President CH2M Hill Leaders Speak Series  CH2M HILL, founded in 1946, is a global provider of consulting, design, construction, and operations services for corporations and governments. Headquartered near Denver, the employee-owned company has revenue of over $6 billion and employs over 30,000 people worldwide. CH2M Hill manages large, complex projects around the world such as reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, relocation of American military bases in Korea, expansion of the Panama Canal, and projects for the London Olympics. In 2013, the firm was named by Fortune as one of the “100 Best Companies To Work For” for the sixth time and was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute for the fifth time. In 2005, leaders from CH2M Hill successfully closed the Rocky Flats   …Continue Reading


Value and Values

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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


Sorry, Tiger, Winning Does Not Take Care of Everything

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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


The Legacy of Leadership

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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


Making It Work as Co-Founders

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Interview with Raj Vinnakota and Eric Adler Co-Founders and Managing Directors, The SEED Foundation Leaders Speak Series  The SEED Foundation partners with urban communities to provide educational opportunities that prepare underserved students for success in college and beyond. SEED’s innovative model integrates a rigorous academic program with a nurturing boarding program, which teaches life skills and provides a safe and secure environment. In 1998 SEED created the first college-preparatory, public boarding school in the U.S. Here are excerpts of our interview with Raj Vinnakota and Eric Adler for Triple Crown Leadership: How would you describe SEED’s leadership approach? Vinnakota: It stems from the conversation that Eric and I had the second time that we met, the same day we decided to leave our jobs and work together to start The SEED   …Continue Reading


What’s So Hard About Ethics?

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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


Vanguard’s Values-Based Visionary

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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


Values-Based Leadership with an Indomitable Will

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 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


What Makes Mayo Clinic Great

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Interview with Drs. Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman Authors of Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic Leaders Speak Series Mayo Clinic, founded in 1864, is a global leader in health care delivery, research, and education. With its four main hospitals and additional affiliated hospitals and clinics, Mayo serves more than a million patients annually with revenue of over $8 billion. For over twenty years, Mayo hospitals have earned top rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The Clinic has placed on Fortune’s prestigious “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for the past nine years.  Drs. Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman wrote Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations. Dr. Berry is Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the Mays Business School, at Texas A&M University. He   …Continue Reading


The Leader’s Worst Enemy: Ego

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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


Transforming a University

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Interview with Dan Ritchie Former Chancellor, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series  Dan Ritchie was the Chancellor of the University of Denver (known locally as DU) from 1989 through mid-2005, a particularly challenging time. Prior to that post, Ritchie was an executive at MCA-Universal and then CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting before taking up ranching in Colorado. Ritchie is currently the Chairman and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Chairman Emeritus of DU. In the 1980s, DU was in crisis, borrowing money to make payroll with over $60 million in deferred maintenance on buildings. Ritchie enlisted cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, a leading proponent of values-based leadership, for financial support. Daniels donated $11 million as a challenge grant, asking the business school to incorporate business ethics into its core   …Continue Reading