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

Ten Keys to Self-Leadership

We face a barrage of challenges these days: rapid change, 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, but it is far … 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, but … Read more

The Trust Imperative

By Bob Vanourek 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 … Read more

Set No More Than Six Personal Values

Six Personal Values

Set No More Than Six Personal Values Photo credit: iStock “Values tell you what to do when you don’t know what to do.”  -Tom McCoy, executive vice president and general counsel for CH2M HILL Your personal values are essential. They set your moral compass. They guide your behavior when you are under the stresses of … 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 … 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

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

Blame Boards For Excessive CEO Pay and Perks

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek uses this image of two people shaking hands in front of a board table to illustrate the importance of the board making ethical and enduring decisions when it comes to CEO bonuses and pay.

Compensation levels for CEO’s and C-suite execs took off like a rocket starting in the 1980’s. It was caused by the dual whammy of Milton Friedman’s “maximize shareholder value” maxim and the advent of the “leveraged buyout” focus from private equity firms. I should know because I participated in those phenomena as a CEO. The … Read more

Generations in the Workplace

Bob Vanourek at Denver University: Leadership Speaker, Business Ethics Speaker, Motivational Speaker

“Why can’t we just all get along?” -Oft quoted lament As Boomers stay in the workplace longer, the Gen Xers move up to management positions, and the Millennials progress into the world of work, it can seem there are insurmountable generational conflicts. But the truth is that different generations in the workplace can develop rich, … Read more

Tips for New Graduates about Leading and Living

Image: iStock With this cap and gown season upon us, here are some thoughts for new graduates as they transition from school to work or other pursuits. 1. Avoid making choices for the wrong reasons. You are probably under a lot of pressure, both self-imposed and externally thrust upon you. As you look at various … 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. … Read more

Diversity and Cultural Fit

Some leaders make a case for diversity; others call for “cultural fit,” implying to some that organizations should hire those who are the “same” as those already in the organization. Are these views compatible? Our good friend and leadership colleague, Bob Whipple (a.k.a. The Trust Ambassador), wrote an excellent blog, Challenge “Samers,” from which we … 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 … 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.

iStock Photo  “…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 … Read more

The End of Hierarchy?

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek uses this image of professionals standing at different levels of hierarchy with an upward moving arrow on a graph to illustrate the importance of the board having the CEO/CFO's back while making important, ethical long-term decisions.

The buzz has been big since articles on Zappos’ movement toward a “holacracy” were publicized. A “holacracy” is a system of governance based on self-organizing teams rather than hierarchical authority. See “Zappos New Badass Culture” and “Zappos Says Goodbye to Bosses”. In a holacracy there are no job titles or managers. Employees have “roles” in … 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

Image: iStock Photo 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 … 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 … 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. … Read more

Classroom Chaos? Try Shared Values

 Image Source: http://romeoandjulietdebate.wikispaces.com 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 … Read more

Life’s Leadership Lessons in Lots of L’s (Over 100, Just for Fun)

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

Top 10 Triple Crown Leadership Blogs

 Our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, just turned one year old! In celebration of this happy event, we are sending out a special edition newsletter featuring our top ten blogs over the past year.      TOP 10 LEADERSHIP BLOGS: 1: The Glorification of BusyWe’re all busy. There’s nothing wrong with hard work. … 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 time-bound. … 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 of … Read more

Ethical Decision-Making: Simple Tests

Photo: iStock   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 … 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 … 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 … 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

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 … 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