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

Tips for New Graduates on Life, Work, and Making Big Decisions

With graduation season upon us, new graduates have much to celebrate after navigating a brutal year. Now they face a big transition from school to work (or further school, or gap year, or other pursuits). Here are tips to help them craft their life and work–and make big decisions that will serve them well. Your … 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

The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes … Read more

Ten Keys to Self-Leadership

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, but it is far from easy. We neglect it at our peril. The task of leading self is the task of a lifetime. Here are ten keys to … Read more

How to Change Your Organizational Culture

Most leaders understand that organizational culture is important. But many struggle with how to change and improve their culture. For too many leaders, culture is too ethereal, too hard to measure, too intangible. So, they muddle along with speeches, slogans, or projects, but their organizational culture refuses to budge. That’s unfortunate because your ideal culture … 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

Set No More Than Six Personal Values

Six Personal Values

  “Values tell you what to do when you don’t know what to do.” -Tom McCoy, executive vice president, CH2M HILL Your personal values are essential. They set your moral compass. They guide your behavior when you are under the stresses of life. Most people have not clearly articulated their personal values, and we strongly … Read more

A Treasure of Wisdom

Follow Your Conscience

 “A Treasure of Wisdom” By Bob Vanourek Every now and then, I have a chance to read a book a colleague has written and want to tell others about it. Such it is with Frank Sonnenberg’s Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life and the Lives of Others. Frank is an award-winning author … 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

A New, Overarching Goal for Boards

One of the painful results of boards embracing the goal to “maximize shareholder value” is shown in the Edelman Trust Barometer: Only 53% of respondents trust business Only 18% of the general population trust business leaders to tell the truth The overarching goal for corporate boards should not be to maximize shareholder value. Instead, boards should … 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

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

Leading with Heart and Head

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

 By Cristina Gair “A good heart and a good head are always a formidable combination.” –Nelson Mandela — In Remembrance, 1918-2013 Students of leadership should immerse themselves in the study of leaders who embody the values and actions they want to see in the world. In college, I started studying Nelson Mandela as an inspiring … Read more

Is Your Organization Falling Short on Values?

Leadership Authors and Business Speakers Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek, feature guest blogger Harvey Kaufman, who uses the image of the word values over a group of words that are considered values to show the importance of values in buisness

Recently, we heard about a law firm whose partners, after operating for a while, decided to draft a list of the firm’s values. As part of that process, the partners discussed their own personal values: their core beliefs and principles, and what they valued most. During that exercise, it soon became clear that “family” was … Read more

10 Steps to a High-Performance Culture

Leadership Speakers and Authors, Bob and Greg Vanourek, use this picture to illustrate the importance of team work in leadership.

“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 … 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

Classroom Chaos? Try Shared Values

Leadership Authors and Business Speakers Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek, feature guest blogger Harvey Kaufman, who uses the image of the word values over a group of words that are considered values to show the importance of values in buisness

Especially at the start of a new school year, classrooms can be chaotic with students testing the limits of a teacher’s authority and not wanting to be constrained again after summer’s freedom. Some highly effective teachers have borrowed a page from the playbook of high-performance teams in other kinds of organizations by eliciting the shared … 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

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

  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 … 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 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

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

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

Values and Culture Key to Success

Interview with Tony Hsieh  CEO of Zappos  Leaders Speak Series  Tony Hsieh was CEO of online retailer Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, a #1 New York Times best-seller. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you describe the organization’s leadership … Read more

How to Build a Culture of Character

Culture is simply “how we do things here,” a set of beliefs and habits that influence how people behave. Culture forms over time and determines what happens when authorities are not present, setting the tone for the organization and the norms for acceptable behavior. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote, “…culture isn’t … 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 … 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 … Read more

Interview with Kit Crawford, Clif Bar

“Sustainable Leadership” Interview with Kit Crawford Co-Owner and Co-CEO, Clif Bar & Company Leaders 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 … Read more

The Values Imperative

Leadership speaker, Gregg Vanourek, speaks on leading by values.

  The power of living and leading in accordance with our values is extraordinary. Values are an essential foundation for our quality of life and leadership. When we take time to discover our core values and have the courage to honor and fight for them, our lives are richer and our contributions deeper. How to … Read more

Bucket Filler or Bucket Dipper?

Jack & Ben with Triple Crown

“Sprinkle Joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets … Read more