Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Category Archives: Purpose

A Leadership Lightning Bolt

Posted on

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


Why Do You Want to Lead?

Posted on

By Bob Vanourek I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate this story now.) I was 29 years old and working nightmare hours for a high-flying firm that was rapidly acquiring companies. My job was to fly out and spend all week, every week, “integrating” the acquired firms. “Integrating” meant consolidating their plants, cutting duplicate costs, and often firing their founders. The look of disbelief on those entrepreneurs’ faces when they were terminated just broke my heart. In Chicago my wife asked me,   …Continue Reading


A Life in Leadership: The Legacy of Warren Bennis

Posted on

Recently, the world lost a giant in the field of leadership and a remarkable human being, Warren Bennis, who passed away at age 89. I was fortunate to get to know Warren years ago through a mutual friend, Christopher Gergen. Together, the three of us strolled by the beach in Santa Monica, visiting in his home, sharing meals, and—best of all—seeing him in action with his beloved students in “The Art and Adventure of Leadership” course at the University of Southern California. The way he connected with students was remarkable. We also became colleagues of sorts when our book, Life Entrepreneurs, appeared in the Warren Bennis Book Series at Jossey-Bass. Warren’s background is instructive. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 at age 18 and served as one of   …Continue Reading


10 Steps to a High-Performance Culture

Posted on

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.” Lou Gerstner, former Chairman and CEO, IBM, and author, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (2002)   How can leaders build a high-performance culture? Culture is powerful. Culture has a huge influence on what people do on a day-to-day basis, especially when the boss isn’t around. Avoiding all the fancy definitions, we define culture simply as “how we do things around here.” Do we slack off when the boss is gone? Do we “just ship it” to make the numbers, even if the quality is suspect? Do we mutter behind people’s backs when they are not in the room? Or are we respectful, honest, engaged, and committed, working hard to serve   …Continue Reading


The Missing Links in Goal-Setting (How to Rock Your Goals)

Posted on

Much has been written about the power of setting goals. Unfortunately, almost all of the advice about effective goal-setting falls short on a few key factors. More on that soon. First, some clarifications. Goals are what you hope to achieve. According to a popular mnemonic, goals should be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. We also recommend using “stretch goals” or “big, hairy, audacious goals” (BHAGs, to employ a term from authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in a Harvard Business Review article) Most of the above is by now fairly well known (though often botched in practice). Here is what is missing: 1)   linking goals to a higher purpose and vision 2)   setting goals for each major stakeholder 3)   then prioritizing them As we wrote in Triple Crown   …Continue Reading


Botching Mission and Vision

Posted on

Words matter in leadership. Bob was once talking to a group of employees about his ideas for setting up dedicated teams to focus on problems. One employee responded, “We are all dedicated here.”   Oops. Bob meant teams focused on single problems. The employee thought he was questioning their commitment. Semantics. Words matter in leadership. Think of the leader who announces, “We will make our numbers no matter what,” and how that is ripe for misinterpretation, and perhaps even an invitation for unethical behavior. Key Words, Key Behaviors We challenge the conventional wisdom on “mission,” “vision,” and “strategy,” and we believe that sharper thinking in these areas could make significant differences in leadership effectiveness. Here is our take a few terms that are essential for leaders to get right. Purpose:   …Continue Reading


Synthesis: A Critical Leadership Skill

Posted on

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”-Leonardo Da Vinci Leaders today are swamped with information 24/7. The complexity can be overwhelming. Yet leaders are supposed to rally colleagues with insightful analyses of problems and plans for how to succeed. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. spoke about the importance of getting to the “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Such simplicity accelerates speed and drives change. How can leaders today get to that simplicity? This challenge is one of synthesis. Synthesis creatively fuses multiple elements, often from different areas, into something new and memorable. Synthesis is not a summary. Synthesis takes A + B + C, and then derives D, where D encompasses the essence of A, B, and C but also adds something new that resonates deeply with people. O.J Simpson’s attorney,   …Continue Reading


Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

Posted on

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

Posted on

  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?

Posted on

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

Posted on

  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