How Robert Greenleaf Created Servant Leadership

Robert Greenleaf was the founder of the servant-leadership movement. But who was this self-effacing man? Why did Stephen R. Covey say, “… I have found Robert Greenleaf’s teachings on servant leadership to be so enormously inspiring, so uplifting, so ennobling.” With no grand title or celebrity, how did Greenleaf, a self-described introvert, create this world-wide … Read more

The Importance of Heart in Leadership

head and heart

In “triple crown leadership,” our framework focused on building organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring, both head and heart are required for exceptional leadership. In most workplaces, it’s almost all head power. We need much more heart power in leadership. The way most leaders go about identifying and developing talent is utterly insufficient for … Read more

Tribute to General Jack Chain—An Extraordinary Leader

A great leader and our dear family friend, Four-Star Air Force General John T. (Jack) Chain died peacefully in his sleep this month at the age of 86. All who knew Jack mourn his loss and are grateful for the time he had with us. Jack and his dear wife Judie were neighbors of Bob … Read more

Leadership and the Ethics Imperative

It’s one thing to achieve outstanding results. It’s another thing to do so ethically, especially when others are cutting corners. Operating ethically is the second imperative of what we call “triple crown leadership” (excellent, ethical, and enduring). To us, “ethical” means acting in accordance with accepted principles of right and wrong: acting with integrity. Leaders … Read more

What’s Your Leadership Quest?

It’s time to raise your leadership game. What’s your leadership quest? What are you seeking to do through your leadership, and where do you want to take your team or organization? What kind of leadership does it take to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations? How can we lead ventures for both high performance and … Read more

The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

Leadership involves so many difficult challenges and exceptional behaviors and mindsets. These days, we ask much of our leaders. When I ask workers to quickly name the qualities that arise in their minds when they hear the word “leader,” I am instantly assaulted by a barrage of words: vision, charisma, confidence, clarity, responsibility, results, judgment, emotional … Read more

The Importance of Trust in Leadership

There are many ways to think about leadership. For some, as we have seen, it is about control or power. For others, it is about achievement or recognition. For others, thankfully, it is about people and service, along with higher purpose and positive impact. Since leadership by definition involves a relationship between leaders and followers—and, more … Read more

The Importance of Credibility in Leadership

Credibility: the quality of being worthy of belief and trust Credibility, which flows from character and competence, is one of the most essential aspects of leadership. High credibility is a tremendous asset for leaders seeking to achieve exceptional performance and positive impacts. Low credibility is devastating. Credible leaders are straight with people, even about hard … Read more

The Root Cause of Ethical Failings (and Our Political Dysfunction)

Scandals. Fraud. Abuse of power. Greed. Corruption. Tax evasion. Coverups. Once rare occurrences, coming back to haunt us every decade or so, these are now front and center in our daily lives and our daily news cycle. We see them in government, in business, and even in nonprofits and some religious organizations. It seems as … Read more

To Lead Well

A poem by Bob Vanourek Summarizing Great Leadership “To Lead Well” by Bob Vanourek I’ll start within, Cultivating quality character, Acting with integrity, Listening with my heart, Composed amid chaos, A soul flooding forth with love. I’ll reach out, Caring and connecting, Serving, Engendering trust, Building relationships, Unleashing others who soar. I’ll step up, Saying … Read more

10 Keys to Self-Leadership

  We face a barrage of challenges these days: astonishing technological change, intense competition, a barrage of demands on our attention, tension between work and home, and more. There is one meta-skill that shapes how we respond to all these challenges: self-leadership. Without it, we cannot sustain ourselves for long. Leading self may be obvious, … Read more

The Trust Imperative

Building trust is an imperative to creating a better world. Through my work advocating ethical and values-based leadership, I sometimes see eyes glaze over. “Whose values?” people wonder. “How do you define what’s ethical?” “Can we really act morally in this rough-and-tumble world?” Fair questions from people trying to survive in a tough, competitive environment. … Read more

Ethical Leadership–Your Game Changer

Embracing ethical leadership can be a game changer in your life, as it was for me. But just what is ethical leadership? And how does ethical leadership differ from ordinary leadership and management? Management involves planning, budgeting, and administering. Management watches the bottom line of the organization, focusing on, for example, profitability for a business. … Read more

A Leadership Lightning Bolt

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 … Read more

The Ethical Challenges Faced by Leaders

Ethics Right Wrong

 “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. … Read more

The Dangers of Toxic Micro-Cultures

Leadership authors and speakers, Bob and Gregg Vanourek, use this picture of business people in gas masks to show the idea of toxicity in the work place.

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 … Read more

The Triple Crown of Leadership

Leadership writers and speakers Bob and Gregg Vanourek use a picture of Secretariat to show the accomplishment and difficulty of becoming a triple crown leader.

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 … Read more

Rationalizations that Derail Leadership

Author and Leadership Speakers Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek use a train that has run off the tracks to show how rationalizations can adversely affect leadership abilities.

“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 … Read more

The Role of Values for Leaders & Organizations

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 … Read more

Three Responsibilities of Great Leadership

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 … Read more

The Ten T’s of Trustworthy Leadership

Trust Inc. Book Cover. Leadership Speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek recommend Trust, Inc., a new book of essays compiled by Barbara Kimmel.

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 … Read more

Life’s Leadership Lessons in Lots of L’s

Life's Leadership Lessons

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 … Read more

Ethical Decision-Making: Simple Tests

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 … Read more

Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

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 … Read more

What to Do If You Work For a Jerk

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 … 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

Big Questions for New Graduates

graduates face future

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 … Read more

Tilts: Short- vs. Long-Term?

Our triple crown leadership model has three dimensions: excellent, ethical, and enduring. 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 … Read more

Bending the Focus of a Company

Interview with Harvey Wagner, Former CEO, Quovadx 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 … 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 … Read more

Value and Values

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, … Read more

The Legacy of Leadership

  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. … 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.  … Read more

Vanguard’s Values-Based Visionary

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 … Read more

Values-Based Leadership with an Indomitable Will

 Interview with Tom McCoy Former Executive Vice President, AMD Leaders Speak Series Tom McCoy 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 … Read more

What Makes Mayo Clinic Great

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 … 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

Transforming a University

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 … 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, … Read more

Creating a Great Place to Work

Interview with Mary Ann Tocio  President and COO, Bright Horizons Family Solutions Leaders Speak Series Founded in 1986, Bright Horizons Family Solutions is a leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work/life solutions. Conducting business in North America, Europe, and India, the privately held company has created employer-sponsored child care and early education … 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, … Read more