A Tiger Team and Its Breakthrough—The Pathfinder

A Tiger Team and Its Breakthrough—The Pathfinder

In our last post, we wrote about Tiger Teams–temporary special action teams created and empowered to attack problems and exploit opportunities. Bob first witnessed the power of alignment and flow with the Pathfinder team at Monarch Marking Systems. In the early 1980s, retailers were rapidly adopting bar codes to scan at checkout. Rather than fight … Read more

Ditch Frozen Structures for Tiger Teams

Ditch Frozen Structures for Tiger Teams

The vast majority of organizations today have a traditional hierarchical structure.* They may be organized by function, division, geography, or some other variable, but they’re hierarchical. Given their long history, it’s no surprise that hierarchies can be useful. Organizations, especially large and complex ones, need structure to avoid chaos. “Hierarchy works well in a stable … Read more

Getting Results with Steel or Velvet—A Critical Leadership Practice

Getting Results with Steel or Velvet— A Critical Leadership Practice

Triple crown leaders—those seeking to build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring—go beyond their natural leadership style, flexing between the hard edge of steel and the soft edge of velvet, depending on the situation and the people involved. (See our related article, “Steel and Velvet Leadership.”) They acknowledge their varying approaches referencing the organization’s … Read more

Leading People with Steel or Velvet–A Critical Leadership Practice

Leading People with Steel or Velvet— A Critical Leadership Practice

Triple crown leaders—those who aspire to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—have learned to go beyond their natural leadership style, flexing between what we call “steel and velvet,” the hard and soft edges of leadership, depending on the situation and the people involved. Steel leadership demands excellent results, insists on ethical practices, and resists the … Read more

Communicating with Steel or Velvet–A Critical Leadership Practice

Communicating with Steel or Velvet— A Critical Leadership Practice

Article Summary: Many leaders don’t tailor their communication style to the situation. Effective leaders flex between steel and velvet (hard- and soft-edge) communication, depending on the situation and the people involved. +++ Of the five advanced leadership practices for building an organization that’s excellent, ethical, and enduring (from our book, Triple Crown Leadership), “steel and … Read more

Giving and Receiving Compliments–An Important Leadership Practice

Article Summary:  Many people are poor at giving and receiving compliments. That’s a shame. High-performance teams are superb at this skill, and praise can make a big difference in motivation. +++   What’s Wrong with This Exchange? Sam: “Amy, you did a great job on that rush project last week.” Amy (looking away and down): … Read more

Reading Body Language—A Neglected Leadership Skill

Article Summary:  Reading body language is an underutilized skill for most of us. Body language and tone of voice are important communication conduits. +++ There’s a leadership capability we all have that is seriously underutilized—observing and reading body language. By reading what other people are communicating through their body language, we can significantly upgrade our … Read more

Why Do You Want to Lead?

Article Summary:  Knowing why you want to lead is essential. If your motive to lead is selfish, you’ll fail. Your ego is a leadership toxin. +++ Why do you want to lead? It’s important to know that—important to your future and to those you lead.   Leading Is a Choice You may get thrust into … Read more

Is Your Organization Aligned?

Article Summary:  Most organizations aren’t aligned, reducing performance and causing frustration and dysfunction. Complete our Alignment Scorecard to gauge your organization’s alignment. +++ Most organizations aren’t aligned. As a result, workers are frustrated and the organization underperforms, sometimes badly.   Signs of Misalignment When organizations aren’t aligned: People lack a clear and inspiring sense of … Read more

Six Words to Fix Your Accountability Problems

accountability and success

Article Summary: Many organizations struggle with accountability. We discovered six words you can use to fix your accountability problems. +++ Are you frustrated by accountability problems? Are people passing the buck, denying responsibility? Do meetings go on and on without coming to timely and definitive conclusions? We’ve been there and know how demoralizing it can … Read more

Good Leaders Are Good Storytellers

Article Summary Many leaders struggle with effective communication. Here we address why storytelling is so powerful and how leaders can get better at it. +++ Bob recalls a defining moment in the turnaround of a large public company where he was the new CEO. During the senior staff meetings held every Saturday morning while the … Read more

How to Align Your Organization for Peak Performance

Article Summary Most organizations aren’t aligned. This reduces performance dramatically and often causes frustration and dysfunction. Here we show leaders how to align their organization or team. We include an Alignment Scorecard to assess your current levels of alignment. +++ In our experience, most organizations aren’t aligned. If they’re not aligned, they’re underperforming. And perhaps … Read more

How to Come Back Even Stronger from a Crisis

Article Summary Many leaders face a crisis that threatens their organization yet find themselves and their team woefully unprepared to handle it well. In this article, five-time CEO Bob Vanourek outlines ten practices for leading a crisis so that you can emerge even stronger than before. by Bob Vanourek “The signature of the truly great … Read more

Good Leadership Practices–An A-to-Z Guide

Through many years of research and experience, we discovered many practices employed by good leaders. Some practices were well known. Others were surprises. We’ve now compiled an alphabetical guide of these practices: A-to-Z Guide to Good Leadership Practices. The full guide contains more than 200 entries, and it’s chock full of actionable tips for leading … Read more

An Overarching Aim for Your Leadership

Today, more than ever, we need leaders and organizations to commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring. Commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring.   Triple Crown Leadership When we wrote our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, we committed ourselves as a … Read more

Are You Strong Enough to Be a ‘Voice of One’?

You’re sitting in a meeting with your colleagues. They all agree on a course of action you sense is wrong. It’s not illegal, but it certainly doesn’t feel right. Do you speak up?   You Will Be Tested No matter what field you work in, you will be tested with ethical challenges or dilemmas. You’ll … Read more

Taking Casualties–No Jerks Allowed

body chalk outline

What do you do when one of your star performers, the best salesperson, or the brilliant technical expert is a jerk? Even worse, more than a jerk, your star performer is a dirtbag who lies, abuses others verbally, or worse? Or cheats to land a bonus? What do you do? We’ve seen this too many … Read more

Why Leaders Must Protect Mavericks

Tom Cruise’s 2022 reprise of his 1986 hit movie, Top Gun, has been a box office smash. Top Gun: Maverick has Cruise again playing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky, rule-breaking Navy test pilot. The elite naval aviation academy recruits Mitchell (Cruise) to train a group of younger top guns for a harrowing and almost-impossible aeronautical … Read more

Steel and Velvet Leadership

steel and velvet

In our book, Triple Crown Leadership, based on extensive research and interviews with leaders in 61 outstanding organizations in 11 countries, we identified five advanced leadership practices for building an organization or team that’s excellent, ethical, and enduring. One of these practices has most intrigued the leaders we work with. Here we elaborate on how … Read more

Why Are We Talking about Ethics?

There I was, giving a guest lecture on leadership at a European business school, when I got an intriguing question from a student in the back of the room: “Excuse me, why are we talking about ethics? This is a course about leadership.” I came to realize what a gift this question was. His question … Read more

Be Vulnerable: Turn Your Weaknesses into Something Good

Bob Vanourek with weaknesses quote

Most of us are adept at hiding our weaknesses. I know I am. I’m getting better though. I’ve learned that being vulnerable by admitting my weaknesses often turns the situation around to something good.   People Already Know I discovered that many people already knew my weaknesses. It was obvious to them, even while I … Read more

What Are Your Leadership Derailers?

Here’s the thing: we all want to be better leaders. But too often we focus on what to do as leaders while neglecting what not to do. That’s where leadership derailers come in—the things that take us off track and inhibit our leadership effectiveness. If we want to be good leaders, we must be aware of … Read more

Why Leaders Can’t Be Loners

Early in my business career, I was a loner. I worked hard and was polite to others, but I never connected with colleagues. I never opened up to reveal what I was feeling. It was all business. I kept my head down and “nose to the grindstone.” Since I had done well in college and … Read more

Ethical Leadership: Our Gamechanger

(This presentation was given on April 27, 2022, by Bob Vanourek at the University of Denver’s Elevate Ethics 2022 Event, hosted by the Daniels College of Business and the Institute for Enterprise Ethics.) “Elevate Ethics.” What a wonderful title. I want to speak tonight about ethical leadership, my passion. How can we be more ethical … Read more

Lead by Leading

  (Guest article by Bill Thompson.) Leadership occupies the vast space between that which is clearly right and clearly wrong. The result often is indecision and inaction at the highest levels of organizations. This failure of leadership can be catastrophic, and often is. While most are familiar with the high failure rate of businesses during … Read more

Unleashing Leaders in Your Organization

In his classic essay, “The Servant as Leader,” Robert Greenleaf (creator of the servant leadership framework), wrote the following: “Anyone can lead…. There is a problem of getting used to the idea of no single chief, but the passage of time will allay that.” -Robert Greenleaf  This short statement has profound implications.   Empowerment Historically, … Read more

The Paradoxes of Servant Leadership

Leadership is rife with paradoxes, seemingly self-contradictory statements that may nonetheless be true. We see this in the servant leadership framework as well as other approaches.   The Servant-as-Leader Paradox In his biography of Robert Greenleaf (originator of servant leadership), author Don Frick said: “Servant and leader are two nouns which usually describe two quite … Read more

Do I Have to Be a Servant Before I Can Lead? (On Servant Leadership)

Robert Greenleaf was clear when he created the servant leadership framework: “ … the great leader is seen as servant first.… the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the … Read more

The Essential Qualities of Servant Leadership

In the years since Robert Greenleaf first published his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” many notable authors and experts have built upon his work. As expected, servant leadership in theory and practice has evolved over time as the context of leading has changed. Here we’ll summarize Greenleaf’s original ideas on servant leadership, recap what some … Read more

Why Servant Leaders Outperform Bosses

One of the most common structures used in organizations over the ages is based on a hierarchical model of bosses and subordinates. It likely has its origin in military command-and-control units. In this model today, every person reports to someone else, except the one at the top of the hierarchy who reports to a board. … Read more

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

Who Determines If You’re a Leader?

Are you a leader if you’re a boss with people who report to you? If you’re a military officer with personnel subject to your orders? Are you a leader if a nonprofit board hires you as their Executive Director? Who determines if you’re a leader? In the late 1960s and 1970s, Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990), a … Read more

How Great Leaders Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate People

“There are two things people want more than sex and money—recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Inc. It’s not enough to recruit and develop exceptional people. Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—must also recognize, celebrate, and reward them effectively through their culture.   How Leaders Can Reward People … Read more

Great Leaders Develop People Intentionally

Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations or teams—focus not just on recruiting great people but also developing them intentionally. They focus on developing people systematically and continually. Unfortunately, many leaders fail miserably when it comes to developing people. Most organizations leave development mostly up to individuals, acting on their own initiative, … Read more

How Great Leaders Recruit People with Heart

Penguins lining up for interviews

“Acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.” –John Maxwell, leadership author How much scrutiny do you use in assessing people for your team? What do you look for? And how? Triple crown leaders—ones who build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring—systematically recruit people with specific characteristics. They invest their precious … Read more

The Importance of Heart in Leadership

head and heart

In “triple crown leadership,” our framework for how to build 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 … Read more

What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic … 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 for the Long Haul—The Endurance Imperative

It’s one thing for an organization to achieve outstanding results. It’s another thing to do so ethically. And it’s another thing altogether to get outstanding results ethically and to sustain it over time. Leadership for the long haul. “Enduring” is the third imperative of what we call “triple crown leadership” (excellent, ethical, and enduring). By … 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

Leadership and the Excellence Imperative

Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. What we call “triple crown leadership” (from our book of the same name) seeks not just any results, but excellent results—exceptional outcomes. It strives for the pinnacle of performance. (Our “triple crown leadership” model has three aims: excellent, ethical, and enduring. Leaders should begin with … 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