More lessons for leaders
Mort Meyerson's cover story in the April:May issue of Fast Company prompted hundreds of e-mail messages.
We've published some of the following in the magazine, but were so overrun by interesting bits of information and intriguing opinions that we've decided to post the conversation here, where space is infinite. The correspondence illuminates the conversational pow-wows happening in the bustling halls of corporations around the world. We wanted to share with you what people are saying about leadership. Reply, consider, argue, or ignore the conversation that's happening. If you haven't read "Everything I thought I knew About Leadership is Wrong", click here to be informed, and then join the conversation:
To email us with your comments, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org
My partner found your article in Fast Company and left it for me with a note that read, "There is someone else out there who's discovered what we already know." I found it to be one of the most reassuring articles on management I've read in a long time.
Back in 1980 my partner and I formed an ad agency based on the belief that we could not only produce great work and make our clients successful, but that we could also treat the people who worked for us like real, living, breathing human beings. That's tough in this crazy, demanding industry.
We developed our values based on the belief that stretching and supporting each other was a good thing, that people want positive reinforcement, that people want leadership to clear the way so they can be successful, not the other way around.
It's like being on a roller coaster. Some people will get scared and want to get off. Some people will be exhilarated and can't get enough. But the ride is always interesting. And the result is we have grown a group of people who will do just about anything for our company and customers.
Thanks for your words of encouragement and your story.
- David C. Hukari
Priscaro & Hukari Advertising
San Mateo, California
Your message was inspiring to me since you seem to have found what we ourselves found, but in a different (or maybe not so different) business. It will be interesting to see where both of our companies are 50 years from now. Thanks for writing. It's a boost to know other people are struggling with similar challenges.
I recently left Arthur Andersen for a career in the music industry. I am now a financial analyst at a record distributor, and many of the issues you raised about the "pre-revolution" Perot Systems are in place at our company. Andersen is a lot closer to the "post-revolution" Perot Systems, so I've had a chance to taste both.
Because of your article, I told my boss (via e-mail) that I wanted to start a revolution at our company. I was hoping you could e-mail me with a few words of wisdom, or just a plain "go-for-it" message before we put on our rally caps and tackle this organization.
- Skip Sterne
New York, New York
Go for it! The try is fun, scary, and mind-expanding.
I enjoyed your article, especially the proposition that this is "the path we'll be on for the rest of our lives. It has no destination."
Many of the things you write about are in full swing at our company. My question is: What kind of compensation system did you enact at Perot Systems?
Our company is pushing very hard for the type of "performance-based" compensation system you suggested was in place at EDS. I think the consequences here will be the same as they were there. Any suggestions?
- Reagan Rorschach
Pay-for-performance is a mantra that sounds great for the uninitiated. You can talk about being things other than a corporate warrior, but if pay is for making the bottom line only, you get the results you ask for.
We are installing variable pay with bonuses based on how the company, the unit, and the individual did on profits, revenues, and customer satisfaction. We also enter items like support of other people and team participation. There is no "formula" that I know about that can capture these factors. I am not suggesting "nonprofit" thinking or "feel-good" thinking. The shareholders win if we do this right. I know that businesses exist to survive and that survival requires profits. But we will try to be indirect rather than direct and see what happens. E-mail me at the end of this year and I will tell you what has happened with our experiment.
I am completing my MBA, and when I look at the jobs my friends go to, I feel sad and angry. Why do so many companies use and waste people like they do?
I don't want to climb the hierarchy at some company, work my ass off, and do things that don't make me happy. What are your thoughts about getting into companies and actually convincing them to change?
- Anders Karlsson
Stockholm School of Economics
The idea of going to a company to change it is like marrying someone with the thought that you'll change that person. Your parents will confirm that it is a losing strategy. Figure out what you want to do, where, and with whom. Then go find that company and get in.
That was a courageous and apt article for many in Silicon Valley to heed these days. Thanks for sharing such personal feelings with us; it will pay dividends to our industry.
I was struck by your message about how the reward structure sets the tone for every level of the company. It's in keeping with how Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tried to build Hewlett-Packard, and it works! I left HP in 1991 after nearly 30 years there.
I spent many hours with Bill in particular, discussing how the measurement and reward systems determine people's actions. We made a huge investment in downplaying the individual and up-playing the team, and it showed in commission structures for the sales force, individual stock-option awards - everything worked in concert.
- Chuck House
Santa Barbara, California
Thanks for your message. With respect to HP, are you saying that team-sharing set up the right motives or that pay-for-performance hurt the company?
I meant the former. An example that Bill Hewlett liked to use concerned the HP calculator. It went something like this:
If you ask your research team to stretch, rather than go for safe goals, then you should expect that only about 40% of their projects will succeed.
If you ask your development teams to stretch, they'll look for ideas from lots of places other than the research labs, which means they may take on only 40% of the "successful" ideas from research. Which means only 16% (.40 x .40) of your research projects are "successful" in the sense that they get "productized."
Now, if you create a system that pays big rewards for "successful" projects, the net result will be to cut down on the stretch goals set by your research and development staffs. That's why we rewarded the entire research group when a new HP calculator came from the group, and not just the few people on the specific team that created it.
- Chuck House
You do a great job explaining the old context that developed under your stewardship at EDS. You also provide some good ideas for changing the direction of the organization because, as you say, people changed, the market changed, technology changed. But the most interesting question is: What in you changed?
Why did what you saw when you returned strike you as wrong, when it was once acceptable? Was it the result of a seminar you participated in, or books you read? You are dead-on about the "fundamental revolution" taking place in the business world, which is why I'd like to find the key to the change in your attitude.
- Phil McCole
from Mort Meyerson: I didn't read a book. I spent time in the personal-computer industry with Michael Dell as his personal coach. I got older. I worked on the side of the customer, not EDS, on several consulting gigs. I had time to reflect.
I want to clarify one thing. I did not argue that EDS changed after I left. It was that way when I was there. I just didn't hear or see it.
from Brudus Meyerson: I am Mort Meyerson's dad. May I take the liberty of stating my observations on Mort's "transformation"?
Our only child, Mort, was always bright and courageous. But it took him a while to learn that fame and fortune, business acumen, and general success in the workaday world, do not guarantee peace and happiness.
During his so-called leisure time after he was out of EDS, he began to investigate why he wasn't content. A world of money and material accumulation. Acclaim and fame. But still not there.
So he started examining philosophy, kindness, love, empathy, sympathy, and many other spiritual qualities, and simply got on track for the "real" things.
When he got back into the business arena with Perot Systems, he saw that there is a place for these qualities in all things, including hard-ball business.
I work for EDS. I've been here just over 10 years so I never had the opportunity to formally meet you. I found your article in Fast Company to be one of the single most impressive articles on leadership I have read in years. It was obvious that the thoughts were backed by experience, internal soul searching, and from your heart. I wish I could have had the opportunity to have known you. As I know you have an interest in Japan, I thought I'd send you one of my favourite quotes:
"We are going to win and the industrial west is going to lose out: there is nothing much you can do about it, because the reasons for your failure are within yourselves. Your firms are built on the Taylor Model; even worse, so are your heads. With your bosses doing the thinking while the workers wield the screwdrivers, you're convinced deep down that this is the correct way to run a business. For you, the essence of leadership is getting the ideas out of the heads of the bosses and into the hands of the labor.
"We are beyond the Taylor Model; business, we know, is now so complex and difficult, the survival of firms so hazardous in an environment increasingly unpredictable, competitive, and fraught with danger, that their continued existence depends on the day-to-day mobilization of every ounce of intelligence. For us, the essence of effective leadership is precisely the art of mobilizing and pulling together the intellectual resources of all employees in the service of the firm. Only by drawing on the combined brainpower of all its employees can
Matsushita Electric Industrial Company
(Translation is compliments of my wife.)
Robb R. Rasmussen
Tell your wife that I loved her translation.
I appreciate your comments and observations. I was concerned that EDSers would read my article as a blast at them or the company. It was meant to show that I was the problem (along with others) - not the heart or soul of the company. I was so sure I was right and doing the right thing that I didn't have time to think that I might not get it.
I read the article on leadership that you wrote for Fast Company...it was good stuff. I have been working for EDS for a year and a half and I totally love my job. I think EDS is a great company to work for .
I am a team leader at Direct Support. The people I work with are the highest quality group of people I have ever worked with: driven, professional, and competent men and women with character, vision and reliable personal values. This is the first job I have had in my 29 years where a day when I do not have fun is the exception.
I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the values that you helped build into the company. I also appreciated the fact that even after all the leadership experience you have had, there are still lessons to learn and even complete shifts in philosophy to undergo.
The leadership philosophy at EDS has transformed my view of people so that I now attempt to find out how I can intrinsically motivate my people instead of extrinsically motivating them. I think the ideas of freedom to take initiative, true empowerment (as opposed to politically-correct, fluffball empowerment) and the opportunity to risk are some of the most powerful drivers of intrinsic motivation.
Thanks also for being both honest and complimentary about EDS. The temptation would have been to bash us because we are a competitor. It meant a lot to me that you honored EDS and this simply enhanced your credibility.
I hope that you continue to share the refinements of your leadership philosophy. I truly gained a lot of insight from your article.
I very much appreciate your message. I have gotten a few flames from EDSers thinking I was knocking the current EDS. You saw that I was not taking on EDS but myself. I love EDS and the people there. It is a great company that has endured and succeeded over a long period of time. That is the true test of greatness. I also think EDS has a soul that most companies would kill for.
I enjoyed reading your article in Fast Company regarding your personal leadership transformation. I realize your article stated that "everyone in Perot Systems knows they can E-Mail me and I'll read it - me, not my secretary." As an EDS employee I sincerely hope you will take a moment to read and reply to this note. I'll be brief.
I feel your intention was to describe your personal transformation and the values of Perot Systems. However, your references to EDS were at best outdated and at worst gross disinformation. I do realize that your basis for these assessments was EDS circa 1986, but I assure you EDS has made a dramatic transformation. Les Alberthal and the current leadership have been leaders in the sense you describe. We have become centered by our values.We respect our customers and don't try to win every negotiation. We do not honor "death marches"; rather we work to improve performance by improving processes. Rewards are based on performance, contributions, and market value. Our leaders don't know all the answers but serve the customer, the people, and our company. It's definitely not easy and without tension or hard work, but I feel more balanced than I did when I worked for another company starting in 1985. That company was EDS, but it wasn't the same!!
I find it hard to believe you don't know more about EDS - or was this just another example of "negative campaigning" designed to undermine a competitor in the minds of potential customers and employees of our companies? I sincerely hope not as I choose to believe you are a leader with integrity. I respect the EDS you helped to create and I am glad that Perot Systems and EDS have both found lessons to be learned about how to be great companies.
I hope you will reread your message and think about it again. I have many friends at EDS and the article I wrote said nothing about EDS now or said anything negative about the company, it's current leadership, it's current style or intentions. It simply said that I had great success by standard measures and that I realized after I left that I had made many mistakes. That says nothing about Les and what is going on now.
Further, your comment about negative campaigning is a slam with a withdrawal that you couldn't believe I would do that. I have never said negative things about tyhe leade4s of EDS or the company. If you can find any reference otherwise I would be happy to clarify the situation.
I have not had any customers, prospects or anyone in the marketplace make any comments about the "bad EDS" or the "reinvented PSC". To read that into the article could be coming from inside your head and not from my article.
Lastly, your description of EDS is slightly rosy. I know many people there and I would find it hard to believe that things are like what you describe. I worked on projects too long and with customers too long to believe the change is that immense in such a short time. We aren't at PSC, but we are trying just like EDS.
Finally, I know that the leadership of PSC is smart, tough and trying very hard. I respect almost everyone of them as humans and businesspeople. Your message materially changes the tone that was intended and read by most people. I am sorry for that and hope that my comments help bring some light to the situation.
Thank you for your response, Mort. Isn't this a great thing about our culture and the wide-spread availability of technology that we can exchange ideas and concerns with anyone, anywhere, anytime? I really appreciate the thoughtfulness you have shown by responding to my impressions.
You're right that I read your article from my perspective. EDS has been very successful in large part due to the standard business measures you mention in your reply that drove the leaders and the employees to meet short term financial goals. I still think your message in the article was that PSC has adopted additional measures as described by the values and principles of the company. These are very appropriate measures and should be praised in their own right.
To compare PSC today to EDS of many years ago and say "everything you thought you knew" from this experience is "wrong" sets a tone that EDS is still the way it was. You are very right that it doesn't say EDS is bad. You are right that this is how I read it. Several people I work with read it the same way I did, but that is neither here nor there.
My point in writing you was to say that EDS has learned the lessons you have learned. Your descriptions were of an EDS culture that existed in large part in the past. My "rosy" description is probably as rosy as your feelings toward PSC. Somewhere in between both are probably more acceptable to most people.
If I offended you in my brief statements I apologize. That was not my intention.
You did not offend me since you were earnest in your positions. That is what dialogue is about. I have not met any person outside of EDS that has read this as a blast at EDS or a comparison of EDS of old and PSC of new to the detriment of EDS. In fact, most people feel that I was too hard on myself about the EDS of old. Nonetheless I took great pride in being at EDS and being part of the team that trained the now very successful team there. I know that things are different now. Two of the top 4 officers of EDS emailed me that they appreciated my views and agreed that both our companies are miles down the road from the old days. They didn't have heartburn since they didn't need to say anything. On the other hand they have known me intimately for decades and you and other younger EDSers don't.
Now all this aside. EDS is great compared to the rifraf out there in the market and I think PSC is too. I did not say and don't think that things are that rosy at PSC. I do think we are trying hard. Same is true for EDS.
A friend of mine just showed me the article you wrote in Fast Company magazine. I definitely agreed with what you had to say about the need for a new direction in managing people in American corporate culture, and a new view of what leadership means.
However, you made some very provocative statements early in the article, and I was hoping you would back them up. You talked about how organizations must change radically because a fundamental revolution in business is imminent, and further:
"Many companies that have enjoyed decades of fabulous success will find themselves out of business in the next five years if they don't make revolutionary changes."
It's not that I disagree. In fact I believe that the trend towards short term profitability has increased from "what have you done for me this quarter" to "what have you done for me in the last two weeks," and will take a number of companies into a downward spiral impossible to pull out of. Look what happened to Apple Computer earlier this year. Then there is the increasingly negative work environment where corporations have no regard for their members. Although, from what I have seen, people usually have an unrequited loyalty to the company. I would expect this combination to come back and bite - no, devour - many organizations.
What led you to make your five-year statement? What's happening in your field of view that would cause this, what aspects of the environment? Also I would like to hear your thoughts on how these things will happen, that is, both sides of "change or die". What will trigger the change, and for those who cannot or will not, what will bring about their demise? Hope you can find time to respond.
I watched the GM company come unraveled up close and inside. I watched IBM come unraveled from afar. I see the Post Office losing the only profitable business they have and not adjusting. I see businesses in Europe stuck in the paradigm of what is normal for their culture. Their country laws and social programs make them technologically inept. I see India and China coming hard.
Five years is a guess. It means not now and not in the distant future. I am betting our company's future that we should talk and deal with these issues.
I was inspired by your article. Thank you for the insight, and for sharing it with the rest of us. If it's any consolation, it's no easier for the next generation. I was born the year you started the health care practice, recently graduated from Harvard Business School (where many of your observations were drilled into my consciousness), and still struggle with many of the issues you articulated in your piece.
The message: Culture endures. It's the only truly sustainable competitive advantage in business, and though it never reaches the analysts, it is the most important job of the CEO.
Back to work...
Ogilvy & Mather Interactive
Thanks for your thoughtful note. The mission of a CEO is interesting. In the final analysis it is your job to make sure others can succeed in what they do. That is a hard transition for many operating type people like myself.
Your article in Fast Company touched me like few others have. Your new mission for the life and health of Perot Systems mirrors my own when I am in leadership positions, but I didn't think I would see it expressed so clearly.
My MBA from Wharton didn't teach it to me. My years of marketing and selling large east coast investment real estate only hinted at it, especially when I felt the system wasn't working. But my years of working in the arts(producing, directing, and marketing theatre), where people are a bit more open with their emotions and desires, helped to shape my thinking.
Thank you for putting into words what I trust a number of us have been thinking about for quite some time. I will be passing around this article (and this great new magazine) to help others see the light.
Charles Seymour, Jr.
Thanks for your note. I am glad it felt familiar to you. I think quite a few people have gone down this path before. The response to the article has exceeded my expectations. I guess email makes it so easy to communicate that people will do so more readily.
I am the marketing part of the management staff of a small instrumentation company, and we are wrestling with the same issues - on a smaller scale. The downsizing and the bone-cutting that many large corporations are conducting has convinced me that unless we, as a startup, concentrate on producing long-term value for our shareholders and our stakeholders, we will ultimately produce a profit-machine which consumes our human resources just the way we consume our physical raw material resources. Maybe we all missed the point when we changed "personnel" (pertaining to persons) to "human resources" (just another resource, like electricity, or typewriters). I am not sure I learned a lot from your article, but it sure confirmed what I've been thinking about. I also wonder sometimes if I am a highly-specialized beast who may not make it through this evolutionary shift.
I know where I want to go... I just haven't got a clue how to get there.
Your message was quite interesting to me. Since Jim Cannavino came to our company I have felt less like a specialized beast and more grounded. I guess everyone needs company. If you don't know where you are going any road will take you there, But if you have self doubts, in the main that is healthy. Only nuts, mentally unbalanced and self-possessed people don't have self doubts.
As a former EDSer, I was wondering if your article would contain the same old tired rhetoric about "re-engineering the company" and "employee empowerment". I was actually impressed - I think you did a good job!
You see, I consider myself the original iconoclast. I heartily subscribe to David Kelley's thought that when everyone's got to follow the rules, creativity gets stifled, and I firmly believe that the corporate culture of America (you have to wear a suit and tie to work, your job is fixed in concrete, there is such a thing as a "boss" who you work for and who tells you what to do) is what's killing American competiveness around the world. In fact, I can't believe I wore a suit and tie to work for 3 years.
However, I was concerned that you mentioned, over and over again, that "we met with senior leaders" and that "people were rewarded." Apparently the "senior leaders" were the ones getting all the financial rewards. What happened to the guy at the bottom getting rich, too? What happens to the guys out on the loading dock? Are they listened to? Has anyone ever considered that the guys at the "bottom" perhaps know more about what's going on than the guys at the top? Has anyone ever asked the guy who delivers the interoffice mail what he thinks about where the company is going and what he'd do if he were at the top? A little later on in Fast Company there was an article about Whole Foods, where the team is everything, salaries are posted, etc.
Maybe that's what we need more of in the industry instead of companies paying lip service to the idea of "employee empowerment".
The thing that bothers me most about corporate America is that while the few "rich fatcats" at the top are making the decisions for the thousands of people who work at the company, when a bad decision is made, the guys at the top still get their bonuses and stock options, while the folks at the bottom of the ladder are the ones who lose their jobs. It's also amazing to me that in most companies, the guys at the top know almost nothing about what's going on at the bottom, nor do they particularly care.
I wish you luck with Perot Systems, but if you are trying to re-engineer, to make PS a better place to work for everyone, not just a few, it may be more of an uphill battle.
The problem with my article is that it is not clear. Every person in PSC owns PSC stock while we are private. That means everyone who has been here long enough to belong to the 401K at every level - secretaries, security, everyone. We have a much narrower band of pay from top to bottom than any company I know of our size. Thus, I must have given you the wrong message. Whole foods is a great company. But they are not doing anything that we aren't doing.
I just retired from the Navy and had a very similar experience. I was Captain of a Navy guided missile frigate and was imbued with the normal Navy "need" to run a perfect ship, win all the awards, and be in complete control. When I walked on board, I saw the faces of the sailors I was to command and instantly dropped my old goals for two new ones: to make certain every sailor left the ship with the same number of fingers and toes that he arrived with (ie. safety was number one), and to do whatever was necessary to make every man a success within his own frame of reference. I became confident that if the sailors felt they were a success, they would make certain that my ship was a success.
Bottom line: your new view of leadership is on the mark.
I very much appreciate your note. Several people have written me from the Navy - either civilian or military people. That is interesting since I was Army and not one Army type has written.
I was very impressed by your article in Fast Company. In a prior issue of Fast Company, the CEO of Verifone expressed the same view as yours regarding e-mail. Obviously, many of your views on leadership and values evolved through your many experiences. I was wondering if any books, papers, people or philosophies (written or otherwise) had any major effect on your views. If so, would you mind telling me what they were?
I know how busy you are and I appreciate your time. Once again, a fantastic article and I hope you write more in the future.
Director International Sales
The books I have read that influenced me are history books on the Mongolians in the 12-15th century, Japan from birth to the 18th century, and China and Korea until the 20th century. I also added a dollop of the history of India. I am not that widely read, but these books have influenced my thinking along with a smattering of writings by the ancient Sages/Prophets/Rabbi's of my religion. I have not read any contemporary management books because I don't find them interesting. I tried several and only Peter Drucker made much sense to me.
The process we used was helped along by Richard Pascale. You can look him up as he has written several books that made some sense to me.
I read about your transformation in Fast Company magazine and shared your article with the Regional Director of a large international child development organization. I am an organizational consultant, and I used the article in one of our coaching sessions. He asked me how Mort transformed himself. I would like you to share a little more detail on:
1. besides being a consultant and observing your previous customers from another perspective, how did you transform your own thinking about leadership? was it a reflective process ?
2. what kinds of seminars helped you to transform your organization ?
Thank you for sharing your process and contributing to others.
No seminars, no consultants, just getting older and thinking a bit. I think my parents, my environment, my colleagues, my age and my family are the reasons why I changed. Or was it spiritual? Have no idea except that it happened.
Thanks so much for your wonderful article in Fast Company. As a former EDSer who left because of the impossible corporate environment, I was touched, amazed and deeply encouraged by your story. Too many government contractors (my own employer included) try to be "little EDSes". I'm glad you've learned otherwise and are taking Perot Systems in a different direction. I fully intend to circulate your article throughout my office. Someone might just learn something.
My own experience with EDS was particularly horrific. For me, joining EDS was a way to establish a stable career without returning to school. (I was yet another liberal arts college grad who became a computer programmer because the ol' history degree didn't sell.) While my internal warning bells chimed loudly, I bought into the young male military model hook, line, and sinker. I tried to be the best man I could be (and I'm a woman). I didn't know just how unhappy it would make me.
I was transferred internally to a project that turned out to be a real death march. For over a year, I put in 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. I gained almost 100 pounds in the course of that year.
EDS fed us dinner every night, but they always brought in greasy fast food that added the pounds to my small frame. My workload didn't let me get to the gym to burn it off, and at home, I started to stuff myself because of the stress (and frankly, because I had some nasty abusive managers and I felt pretty sorry for myself). Then I started having panic attacks and basically acting pretty crazy. I was asked to find another job and resign. They said I was "immature" and "emotionally unstable."
I learned that my panic attacks weren't caused by immaturity or emotional instability, but were a chemical reaction to high stress situations - in short the managers at EDS had penalized me for having a medical condition, and I was naive enough to let them get away with it.
Name withheld by request
Boy your story is scary. I believe that the project was tough and your medical condition didn't come to light until later.
I am a Training and Organization Development change-agent-type-person for the Mead Fine Paper Division in Chillicothe, OH. I read your article in Fast Company and found it quite inspiring. My job is to make this kind of "aah haa" happen here. Before you roll your eyes, I know that I cannot make it happen - I am attempting to set up an environment that would help make it happen for more people (better?).
I am intrigued by the workshop you mentioned - "We initiated a companywide program to teach us how to disagree with each other without tearing each other down." Can you please tell me if this workshop was done by an outside company and if so, by whom? We could certainly benefit from this.
Manager, Professional Skills Development
Mead Fine Paper Division
Glad you put in the rolling of my eyes, since I did just that until you cleared it up.
The name you're looking for is George Parsons.
Thank you for your testimony of the power of transformation in a company setting. Over the last five years I have experienced a similar metamorphosis in my life, and it was with great joy that I "saw myself" in your works, complete with the happy ending!
The personal change you allowed yourself to undergo and the resulting successful turnaround of the company will help lots of other heart-led leaders to take flight!!!
I appreciate this note, but who are you?
Wordplay! is the name I use for my consulting business. I have been exploring different ways to balance my business life with my life as a single Mom, without going back to the VP level position I had before. I've worked for many years in the creative side of business, marketing "show business for business" production companies, and have participated in several "start ups."
Fast Company magazine is the type of information that somehow finds its way to me. I am always interested in improving and finding out what innovative people are doing to live more joyously.
I'm a spiritual journeyer and explorer of the many ways to enjoy life and express creatively - through writing, etc. Thank you for asking. I enjoyed the opportunity to reply. Have a great day! The stars are out!
I wish you the best in your pursuits of the happier path. Be well. I hope you live in Santa Fe where your ideas would be in vogue.
I am a student at the school of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University. This semester I am taking a class on hospitality leadership and in that class I had the chance to read your article on leadership. Your article was very inspiring for me as I would like to be a leader in the future rather than just a manager. I have two questions:
1. what are the leadership challenges for the next generation of leaders?
2. what are the leadership opportunities for the next generation of leaders?
I realize you are a busy person but would greatly appreciate your reply. Thanking you in anticipation.
Farah Manzar Ullah.
Challenges: not that dissimilar to ours: create jobs, help customers, make a reasonable return on invested capital, have fun, create a great environment for your associates.
Opportunities: DO IT BETTER THAN WE DID.
I have wrestled with similar, albeit smaller scale demons here for the past few years. I hope that your vision, and my conviction that putting the individual and their life ahead of the rest will generate the best result can dominate American business. The transformation of US healthcare to a "new business model" has lost sight, in many cases, of this truth and has cast away the one thing that has tied people to this industry - creating value.
Dwyne R. Patrick
Interim VP-IS West Virginia University Hospitals &
University Health Associates
Thanks for your message. I am curious about your comment about US Healthcare. In my past life I was the healthcare guru at EDS for my first 7 years in the technical trenches. US Healthcare and all managed care people were nits then.
I had a chance to read through your article "What I thought I knew about Leadership is Wrong". OOPS! It was amazing and the best article I have read on leadership in recent times. The other articles/books which come the closest on leadership are Herman Miller CEO, Max De Pree's "Leadership is an Art" and Jack Welch's biography.
For Youngsters like us with a vision to develop and lead a world class company sometime in the near future, articles from people like you are the foundations on which we are going to build empires.
Thanks a ton and enjoyed reading your article thoroughly.
Thanks for the message and compliments. You put me in favorable company that I am not sure I deserve. Welch is a very effective "big time Leader". I think of myself as a good guy, but technical and not so big time.
Although you have clearly been successful in "generating a team of people who support and nurture each other," most people need to learn how to do it. They need to learn how to criticize so the criticism is viewed as a gift, they need to learn how to benefit from criticism rather than respond defensively, they need to learn how to genuinely listen, not just to the words but the meanings behind them, and more.
Many people call what I've been teaching and writing about for 31 years "common sense." But, as you know, the wisdom known as common sense is not very common. But, I feel it can be learned. That's why I wrote Managing with Wisdom (Pelican Publishing, 1996). It is a practical "how to" book on developing wisdom. I have a home page on the Internet http://condor.depaul.edu/~jgrossma, where you can go to learn more about my book and me.
Jack H. Grossman
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.