March 2, 1998
All of us want to do the right thing. We strive to be good citizens as well as thoughtful and decisive leaders. Whether we're the head of a large corporation or running a department in a small company, we want to excel. If you're like me, you're always looking around to see how other leaders operate. So I'll start with a question: What do Roger Enrico, the dynamic head of PepsiCo; Andy Grove, who runs Intel; Phil Jackson, head coach of the Chicago Bulls; Rear Admiral Ray Smith, a former Navy SEAL; and Jack Welch, chairman of General Electric, all have in common?
Sure, they're all success-driven. But they share other notable attributes. Enrico, for example, spends much of his time making sure his company is thriving and will flourish in next century. How? By running a "war college" for a new generation of Pepsi leaders. Grove also believes in the classroom approach. He shares the lessons he has learned in his career with his colleagues and has taught at Stanford University. Welch also believes in mentoring. He regularly participates in the General Electric Leadership Development Institute in New York working with GE executives. Smith, a Vietnam veteran, visits with current SEALs, telling them stories and why it takes courage, honor and teamwork to succeed. And anyone who's followed the Chicago Bulls dynasty knows about Jackson's leadership prowess. He's a skilled teacher and mentor.
What else do these men have in common? First of all, they're what I call idea developers. They all know what it takes to win and do everything they can to help foster a winning culture in their organizations.
They're value promoters. They have strong values that everyone understands and lives up to. The values aren't just stuck on a plaque in the hallway. They're the foundation of the organization, and everybody is held accountable to them.
These men are energy builders. All the books on management tell you that true leaders seem to have incredible amounts of energy. While the leaders I'm talking about seem to have endless energy, they also energize others. They encourage everyone to stretch their talents and skills.
They're also risk takers. Welch calls it "edge" -- the ability to see reality and act on it, make tough decisions, and encourage and reward others who are willing to do the same.
Finally, all are good coaches and storytellers. They are renowned for their abilities to give pep talks, have hallway chats and make terrific speeches. They personalize their vision and ideas by telling stories that hit people in the heart as well as the head.
Gen. Wayne Dowling, former head of U.S. Special Forces, is another individual in the same league. He used to hand out what he called "reinventing licenses" to his people. One side of the card, which was made to look like a driver's license, read: "Is it the right thing for our country? Our forces? Is it consistent with our organization's values? Is it legal and ethical? Is it something you are willing to be held accountable for?" If the answer was yes to all those questions, the advice was simple: "DON'T ASK PERMISSION. JUST DO IT." On the other side of the card, Dowling listed the mission and values of the Special Forces Command: "Prepare Special Operations Forces to successfully conduct worldwide special operations, civil affairs and psychological operations in peace and war . . . " And then: "WE VALUE: Our people, creativity, competence, courage and integrity."
Two key words here are values and ethics. Show me an organization that doesn't have sound values and ethics, and I'll show you an organization that will eventually fail. Without values and ethics, there is no meaning and there is no plan.
Just do it!
Charles S. Lauer