What Great Leaders Know and Do: It All Begins with “Seeing the Future”

OneThe Secret Book Cover of our favorite publishers, Berrett-Koehler, just released the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do—the first book I coauthored with Mark Miller.

The message in The Secret is as powerful in today’s increasingly complex world as it was when it was published ten years ago: You can serve without leading, but you can’t lead without serving. I’ll be blogging a few times over the next several weeks about each element of the SERVE model we present in the book.

To begin, the S in SERVE stands for See the Future. As leaders of a group, department, or organization, we must have a compelling vision of the future.  This compelling vision stirs the passion not only within us but also within the people we serve. It tells everyone who we are, where we are going, and what will drive our behaviors.

Sheldon Bowles, a friend and coauthor, provides one of my favorite examples of a man with a clear vision for his company. Sheldon is one of the founders of Canada’s DOMO Gasoline company.

Many years ago when gasoline companies were all shifting to self service gas stations, Sheldon decided that it would be the perfect time to go into the full service business. He loved to venture where there was no competition—and full service would be DOMO’s market differentiator. He knew people didn’t go to gas stations for enjoyment; they went for a specific reason and wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Sheldon decided to create an experience for the customer when they pulled into a DOMO station, and the pit stop of the Indianapolis 500 race served as his inspiration. He hired mothers, retirees, and others who were interested in working part-time and dressed them in red jumpsuits.

When a customer drove in to one of the stations, attendants would race toward the car, pump the gas, look under the hood, clean the windows, and take the payment. The values that drove everyone’s behavior were safety, speed, and fun. As the customer drove away, they were handed a card that said “P.S.—We also sell gas.” As a leader, Sheldon had a clear picture of the future and communicated it effectively to his people.

What’s your vision of the future?  Is it compelling?  Have you shared it with your team?

I look forward to sharing more about the SERVE model in future blogs. If you’d like to learn more, join Mark Miller and me on Monday, September 29 at 11:00 a.m. PDT/2:00 p.m. EDT when we will host a free webinar on the key concepts of The Secret.

Remembering My Friend Warren Bennis

Warren BennisOn July 31 we lost one of the eminent scholars and authors in the field of leadership, Warren Bennis. Some people have said that Peter Drucker was the father of management and Warren Bennis was the father of leadership. To me, he was a trusted mentor and personal friend.

I first came in contact with Warren’s work when I was working on my doctorate degree at Cornell in the 1960s. I got to know him personally in the 1970s when Pat and Drea Zigarmi, two of my doctoral students who later became founding associates of The Ken Blanchard Companies, chose Warren as the subject of their doctoral dissertations. At that time he was the president of the University of Cincinnati. Pat studied Warren as an internal change agent and Drea studied him as an external change agent.

Warren wasn’t just a writer and teacher of leadership—he was also a practitioner. More importantly, he was a fabulous human being. In the last several years I was fortunate enough to be able to have lunch with Warren in Los Angeles every few months. He always pushed the envelope and thought more creatively about leadership than anyone else. At age eighty-nine he was still teaching a course called “The Art and the Adventure of Leadership” at the University of Southern California alongside former USC President Steven B. Sample.

Not only am I going to miss Warren’s inquisitive mind and his challenging thinking, I will miss him as a human being. We’ve lost a great one.

Are You a Leader? Here’s How to Tell

Ripple effect of dew drop fallingSometimes when I’m leading a session for a big group of managers, I’ll ask, “How many of you think of yourself as a leader?” Usually only about one-third of them raise their hands. Somehow they think the word leader is reserved for high-level positions like President or CEO.

But each of us has the ability to influence someone else, whether it be a coworker, a child at home, a spouse, or a friend. Anytime you are trying to influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of another person, you are engaging in leadership. Of course there are traditional organizational leadership responsibilities that involve goals and objectives, but if you think beyond those confines, you’ll realize that everyone is a leader—you are a leader—unless you’re stranded on an island by yourself!

I’m always reminded of this when I ask people to tell me about someone who has influenced them and had a positive impact on their life. They very seldom mention traditional leaders at work. They usually talk about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, or teachers.  The one characteristic common among all of these influencers?  Their interest in helping another person develop.

The truth is that we are all trying to influence people, whether it is in the office, at home, or with friends.  But we need to pay attention to how we do it. Are we there to serve or to be served? The most effective leaders know that true leadership is about serving and impacting people in a positive way. It’s about letting people know that you want to help them be the best they can be and that you truly care about them.

Even if you don’t have a traditional leadership role right now, chances are you are playing a significant role in the life of another person.  Identify it, claim it, and recognize the impact you can have in someone else’s life.

Dealing with “The New Normal”

bigstock-Business-man-in-front-of-a-hug-40875844A client recently asked me to speak to their company about “the new normal.” It reminded me of an interview I conducted with Sir Richard Branson on the same topic a couple of years ago. As you know, Sir Richard is an expert on operating in the new normal. His international investment group, the Virgin Group, is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands and runs successful businesses in several different sectors.

During our interview, I asked Sir Richard how he chooses the different sectors he invests in.

His reply was that he looks for sectors where the current competitors are not as customer focused as they could be. If they are not taking care of their customers, he’ll go into that industry.

But that was just the beginning. In addition to being customer focused, he shared that you have to be fast and flexible, you have to be cost effective, and you have to be continuously improving. Continue reading

5 Keys to Connecting With Your People

bigstock-Different-46099117I was talking with some friends at a recent morning men’s group. Our focus was on the importance of being connected to other people and what it means. We came up with five things we think help you really get connected to others—at work, and in all aspects of life. How would you rate yourself in these five areas?

  1. Listen more than you speak.  We talked about listening a lot. If God wanted you to speak more than listen, he would have given you two mouths!
  2. Praise other people’s efforts.  This one has always been so important to me. Catch people doing things right.  That really helps you get connected with people.
  3. Show interest in others.  It’s not all about you. Find out about people and their families and learn about what’s happening in their lives.
  4. Be willing to share about yourself.  In our book Lead with LUV, my coauthor and former Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett said that people admire your skills but they really love your vulnerability. Are you willing to share about yourself?  I think being vulnerable with people is really important.
  5. Ask for input from others—ask people to help you.  People really feel connected if they can be of help to you. Continue reading