Leading in a Crisis

Today, we are all being tested greatly, and so it is with our leaders. Individuals, organizations, and systems are all under strain, with some facing overload. Here are several keys to leading well in a crisis. Radical Focus. When you are in a crisis, your immediate priority is survival. Crises require take fierce discipline in … Read more

Is Your Business Stuck in Zombieland?

by Bob Vanourek “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Attributed to Albert Einstein U.S. government statistics tell us that about half of all new businesses will be gone within five years. Of course, some businesses become successful, often within a few years. These are the models all … Read more

The Problem with Tired Leaders

Are you tired? Stressed? Busy? Just par for the course for today’s leader, right? Wrong. These days, it seems that “busy is the new black.” Busy is in. People boast about how busy they are. When answering a schedule request, they regale you with all the things in their calendar that prevent them from meeting … Read more

The Ethical Challenges Faced by Leaders

Ethics Right Wrong

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 … Read more

Is Your Organization Headed for a Breakdown?

Business Breakdown

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 … Read more

What’s Different About Leading Startups?

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 … Read more

The Job of a Lifetime: Leading an Incredible Transformation

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 … Read more

Making It Work as Co-Founders

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 … Read more

What’s So Hard About Ethics?

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 … Read more

The Leader’s Worst Enemy: Ego

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 … Read more

Leaders Own Up

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, … Read more

10 Leadership Myths and Half-Truths

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 … Read more

A Tireless Focus on Excellence

Interview with Steven Rothstein President, Perkins School for the Blind Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1829, Perkins School for the Blind operates in more than sixty countries with revenue of over $50 million. It offers free audio, Braille and large print books, and hundreds of newspapers by phone. The operations are complex, including a school, early … Read more

Walmart Corruption Rampant

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 … Read more

Leading a World-Class Institution

Interview with Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman President, Princeton University  Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1746, Princeton University is consistently ranked as one of the finest institutions of higher education in the world. An honor-system school, the university’s informal motto is “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” Distinguished alumni, students, … Read more

It Takes Teamwork, Trust, & Values to Win

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 … Read more

Turnaround Priority: Establishing Psychological Stability

The single hand of a drowning man illustrates how it feels to be out of organizational alignment, as seen by leadership speakers Bob Vanourek & Gregg Vanourek.

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. … Read more

A Vision of Great Leadership

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 … Read more

Why Tyco Threw Out Its Entire Board

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 … Read more

Leadership for Bold Social Impact

Interview with Bill Shore Co-Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength Leaders Speak Series  Share Our Strength began in the basement of a row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in 1984, in response to the famine then raging in Ethiopia. Brother and sister Bill Shore and Debbie Shore started the nonprofit organization with the belief that … Read more

How to Make Good Leadership Decisions

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 … Read more

Adaptable Leadership

  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 … Read more

Do What’s Right

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 … Read more

Translating Mission & Values into Results

Interview with Bill George Harvard Business School Professor and  Former CEO, Medtronic Leaders Speak Series  Bill George was the COO, then CEO and Chairman, of Medtronic from 1989 through 2002, the years when annual revenue increased an average 18% and earnings increased 22%. A host of innovative products were introduced during this time, and the price-to-earnings ratio of … Read more

Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

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 … Read more

Lance Armstrong Still Racing from the Truth

 Lance Armstrong was “gaming the system”–exploiting the rules for personal gain. This is so disappointing because Armstrong was one of the most celebrated athletes in the world, with seven consecutive Tour de France championships. Armstrong is also a celebrity cancer survivor and philanthropist. He established the influential Livestrong Foundation, with its popular yellow bracelets, “changing … Read more

The Glorification of Busy

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 … Read more

Interview with Kit Crawford, Clif Bar

“Sustainable Leadership”Interview with Kit CrawfordCo-Owner and Co-CEO, Clif Bar & CompanyLeaders Speak Series Clif Bar & Company is a privately held, family- and employee- owned company, creating nutritious and organic food for people-on-the-go. It has achieved double-digit annual revenue growth and won a long list of employment, diversity, and sustainability awards, including making Inc.’s list … Read more

Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney

“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 … Read more

The Legacy of Jim Burke

(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 … Read more

Whistleblowers–Reframing Their Role

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 … Read more

Wave of Cheating Scandals–And What To Do About Them

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 … Read more

Suicide by Quarter–Leading for the Short-Term

Have you ever: • Told one of your line managers to “do whatever it takes to make your numbers this quarter”? • Pulled sales from next quarter to make this quarter’s numbers? • Cut into critical R&D funds to hit Wall Street forecasts? • Asked the CFO to lower the reserves for future expenses to … Read more

The End of Leadership?

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 … Read more

Choose Your Friends and Colleagues Wisely

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 … Read more