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

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

Does Your Business Need an Advisory Board?

“I was not sure where I was going … But you saw further and clearer than I, … to a place I had never dreamed of …” -Thomas Merton The sad reality is that most businesses fail. The quoted failure rates vary, but they are all dismal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “About … 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

The Keys to Success

What are the keys to success? I pondered this question when asked to speak at the recent GlenX Success Summit in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My task was to define the X Factor that, combined with IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional intelligence), would lead to success, happiness, fulfillment, and achieving one’s best self. A tall … Read more

Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence

In our award-winning book, Triple Crown Leadership, we reveal five advanced leadership practices for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. The first of these is to recruit, develop, and promote people for both “head and heart.” Head involves the education, knowledge, skills, technical competence, and experience necessary for the work. Heart involves integrity, emotional … Read more

Boards and Trust

by Bob Vanourek Higher trust in organizations leads to higher retention, cooperation, innovation, and pride. Higher trust enhances the speed at which organizations work because the fear created in low trust organizations is minimized. Higher trust leads to better results for all stakeholders from customers to employees and shareholders. Therefore, higher trust needs to be … Read more

Helping People Soar

In 1981 I joined Monarch Marking Systems as their president. This subsidiary of Pitney Bowes was the leader in price-marking equipment used by retailers. But scannable bar codes had just come out, so price-marking equipment might become obsolete. I was stoked by this strategic challenge! Monarch had wisely reinvented itself as a bar code printer … 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

Why Do You Want to Lead?

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 … Read more

A Triple Crown Winner at Last

That’s why it’s called “the most elusive championship in all of sports.” It’s taken 37 years since Affirmed won the coveted Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing in 1978 for another winner to break through. On June 6 American Pharoah (an inadvertent misspelling of “pharaoh”) became only the 12th horse since 1875 to win the Triple … Read more

New to the Boardroom? How to Succeed

Boardroom

By Bob Vanourek Congratulations. You’ve just been invited to join your first public company board. Great. Now, what can you expect? It’s not just approving the CEO’s strategy or officer compensation recommendations after asking a few questions. It’s more than risk assessments, financial statement reviews, and meeting with the outside auditors periodically. It’s much deeper … Read more

Double Your Productivity in 15 Minutes

Guest Blog by Dan Forbes, Founder of the Lead With Giants™ Community In the early 1900s Charles Schwab was president of Bethlehem Steel, a small, struggling company. He was looking for ways to increase productivity and profits. In walked Ivy Lee.  He was a business consultant and promised Schwab that in just fifteen minutes he could share … Read more

Take Fear Along For The Ride

Leadership authors and speakers, Bob and Gregg Vanourek, use this picture of an x'd out fear to show the importance of overcoming fear.

“I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, But he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela Years ago in Dallas, Bob attended a presentation on courage that made a lifelong impact on him. He expected to … Read more

Governance Guidelines for Corporate Boards

Leadership speaker and author, Bob Vanourek, uses an image of a board table to represent the importance of governance guidelines in an organization.

 Image credit: iStock “If you have leadership without governance, you risk tyranny, fraud and personal fiefdoms. If you have governance without leadership,  you risk atrophy, bureaucracy and indifference.” –Mark Goyder, Founder Director, Tomorrow’s Company With so many corporate scandals in recent decades, much focus has been placed on upgrading corporate governance practices, and rightly so. … Read more

Learning to Trust Your Judgment

Leadership speakers and authors Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek use an image of the word "Trust" to emphasize the importance of trusting yourself.

(This blog was previously published by Trust Across America – Trust Around the World as a part of their 100 Days of Organizational Trust program.) Many folks are reluctant to trust their own judgment. They may feel they should not speak up when some alarm bell is going off in their head for a variety … Read more

Why Boards Should Pay Attention to Corporate Culture

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” –Lou Gerstner, former IBM CEO Most boards think “culture” is the soft, fuzzy stuff that some CEO’s or HR leaders may pay attention to. These boards are sadly wrong. A high-performing, ethical culture can be a great source of competitive advantage. An organization’s culture … Read more

Servant Leadership through Time

The concept of leaders as servants goes back into ancient history but was articulated most clearly in the 20th century by Robert Greenleaf in an essay, “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970. In the next four years, two more essays explored ideas that an entire institution – and a society – could act as … Read more

CEO Tip: Trust Your Board As Your Ally

Some CEOs and boards have close, trusting partnerships that serve them and their firms extremely well. They are, in my experience, the minority. Most CEOs I have met see the board as a group they need to “manage,” a dinner and meeting they need to prepare for, taking preciously valuable time away from running the … Read more

Paradoxes of Leadership

Leadership speaker and author, Bob Vanourek, uses this picture of a paradox ahead sign to show paradoxes in leadership.

Paradox: A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. Leadership is rife with paradoxes, competing claims, countervailing pressures, and conflicts. There is frequently a “thesis” and an “antithesis” in leadership dilemmas, often requiring a “synthesis.” Here are some leadership paradoxes and other interesting dualities we have learned: Serving followers and being served by followers … Read more

Put Trust on Your Daily Docket  

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek use this picture of the trust definition in the dictionary to express the importance of trust.

Let’s assume that as a CEO or board leader you want your firm to be viewed as trustworthy by its stakeholders. You realize a more trusting set of relationships between people will be useful, perhaps even a breakthrough to improved performance. Great. But this is a field where you don’t have expertise. You have been … Read more

Does Your Board Have Your CEO’s Back?

Leadership speakers and authors Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek use this image of a smiling woman in front of other people to illustrate the importance of valuing your employees.

One of the great scourges of our age is “short-termism.” A staggering 78 percent of CFOs and CEOs admit to sacrificing long-term value to achieve smoother earnings. Many decry this “suicide by quarter” mentality, but few CEO’s will be able to withstand the pressure to make the quarterly numbers unless he or she has the … Read more

Transparency Builds Trust

Let’s consider two otherwise identical firms. Rocket Corp. issues their quarterly earnings press results, focusing on their financial results. Then they conduct their quarterly conference call with investors, reporting their revenue, margins, profitability, cash levels, and citing their revenue and earnings guidance for the next quarter and year. They take questions from those investors on … Read more

Everyone Leads at Times

Leadership speakers Bob and Gregg Vanourek use a chess board with all black pieces but for one pawn to show that at some point, even a pawn may lead.

 “Leadership is your choice, not your title.” –Stephen R. Covey Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not a leader”? “Fair enough,” you might think. Some people are just not into that leadership thing. Perhaps they have other talents or interests. Or they are reluctant to take responsibility, or afraid of not leading well. … Read more

The Longest Tail (Guest Blog by Walt Hampton)

According to Steve Coburn, “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the race since Day 1.” Coburn is the co-owner of California Chrome, once thought to be the heir to the Triple Crown, who lost at Belmont. “Look at it this way, if you can’t make enough points to get in the … Read more

Alignment: A Transformational Process

Organizational alignment is a transformational leadership process, requiring extensive, multidirectional communication, with deep listening and dialogue, not edicts from the top. Alignment is a “we” process, not an “I” process. It is is a back-and-forth, up, down, and sideways leadership process that should touch everyone in the organization, even some outside stakeholders on some steps. … Read more

Leaders Must Be Present with People

People won’t follow your leadership if you’re not fully present with them. If you are not present with people, you are not connecting with them. Without connections, the leader/follower relationship breaks down and trust is undermined. People feel devalued. You’re sending a signal that they are not important. As a result, they won’t commit to … Read more

RIP Great Leader

“But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.” (From “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman) The Great Leader passed away last week after a long, slow decline.  Countless old colleagues were at his side. In the ensuing days, there was … Read more

Six Tips on Giving Effective Feedback

Leadership speakers and authors, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use the image of an older gentleman listening intently to a co-worker to show the importance of transparency.

Here are some edited excerpts from a great post by our leadership colleague, Chuck Wachendorfer, on giving feedback effectively. Giving feedback effectively includes following these six rules: Focus on the behavior, not the intention.  Never question someone’s intent.  Assume they wanted to do the job well.  It’s the behavior that may have fallen short.  Usually, … Read more

Learning to Trust Your Judgment

Leadership speakers and authors, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use the image of a scale to illustrate the importance of judgement in ethical decision-making.

 “…with good judgment, little else matters; without good judgment, nothing else matters.” –Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis, leadership authors Leadership requires judgment. A leader judges what’s right or wrong, what’s ethical or not. A leader judges when to flex between the hard edge of leadership (steel) and the soft edge (velvet). A leader judges how a … Read more

Dreams Versus Goals

Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek use an image of two hands reaching toward the sky to illustrate the importance of goal-setting.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines” ~ Diana Scharf, author Goals are the secret ingredient for turning our dreams into reality. Our good friend and fellow leadership practitioner, Bob Whipple, “The Trust Ambassador”, wrote a helpful blog on goal setting recently. We excerpt below some of Bob’s wise insights for setting great goals. 1. Make your goals … Read more

Twelve Tips to Grow as a Leader

Leadership speakers Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek feature Nelson Mandela as exemplifying growth in leadership.

Leaders aren’t born. They grow. Yes, some people are born with characteristics that make leadership easier. Some people are more outgoing, or intellectually gifted, or quick thinking. Some are excellent communicators, or have natural self-belief. But opportunities to learn and grow dramatically outweigh all of those factors combined. Leadership is learned and developed through a … Read more

Your Leadership Mindset

Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use an image of a man with his head buried in a vast desert of sand to illustrate the "fixed mindset" that is so detrimental to leaders.

What is your leadership mindset? What are your self-conceptions and beliefs that drive your behavior as a leader? In many cases, these are unknown because they operate beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Yet they are crucially important because they affect the way we approach people, situations, opportunities, and risks. In short, our mindset … Read more

Unleashing Other Leaders

Bird out of Cage demonstrates the power of unleashing other leaders.

Leaders today need to, not only develop loyal and committed followers, but also unleash other leaders who can lead various critical tasks. Leadership in this scenario is not about the great skills and talents of “the leader,” but the collective strengths and blended talents of the leaders and the followers, who variously lead at times … Read more

We’re All Entrepreneurs Now

Guest Blog by Mike Critelli During my 25-year tenure as a senior business leader, I have seen a remarkable change in the requirements for successful business leadership. Leaders today must adopt more entrepreneurial behaviors and imbed them in their organizations, however large or mature those organizations might be. The image of an entrepreneur as a … Read more

Why Is Leadership So Difficult? Paradoxes (and How to Master Them)

cube frame representing the paradoxes of leadership

After thousands of years and countless words written and spoken about leadership, why is it still so hard to get it right? Perhaps because leadership is rife with paradoxes? A paradox includes two contradictory concepts both of which are true. We recount some of them here. Leaders are: Adaptive and persistent. Asking and telling. Bosses … Read more

High Performance Begins with Shared Values

“When aligned around shared values and united in a common mission, ordinary people accomplish extraordinary results.”  –Ken Blanchard, leadership author Managers today have a daunting job. With their downsized staff, often depending on people over whom they have no authority, they are expected to produce better results than last year, all on a reduced budget. How … 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

Botching Mission and Vision

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 … Read more

Synthesis: A Critical Leadership Skill

“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 … 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