actors studio, anne mulcahy, boardroom, borders, business, canada, celebrity apprentice, collaborative, cultures, donald trump, entertainment, failures, global, good to great, humble, humility, italy, jim collins, leader, lessons, mexico, mistakes, p.diddy, puff daddy, securities exchange commission, shawn combs, team, thomas jefferson, united states, xerox
“Whether you prevail or fail depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you” (Jim Collins)
The lesson in humility came later in life for me, when I realized that I could accomplish great things and make a difference in the world, if I just set my mind to it. Perhaps it was my personal “AHA!” moment, when I made such discoveries of myself and stopped selling myself short. What I was not prepared for was the fat head I would grow through the acquisition of knowledge, the building of my relationships and the network of people for whom and by whom I was making headway in the world and in business. In combination with the a fore mention, I grew what inevitably became a great downfall, a FAT HEAD and EGO.
When I was fired from a position that I loved and was passionate about, because my ego took over my professionalism, and my forked tongue took over my diplomacy, I was forced to sit back and take a long hard look in the mirror and face myself, my demons and my mistakes along the way. What peered back at me was someone I neither recognized, nor someone I particularly cared for. The person was someone I said I would never become. I wondered, had others had this same moment and still been able to start over, learn and continue to achieve their successes?
Last week, it seems this lesson came to mind again, through a myriad of indirect messages. First, while watching “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, Shawn Combs (A.K.A P.Diddy, Diddy,Puff Daddy) was being interviewed. A prominent name (s)now in entertainment, I realized he too had a fascinating, if not illuminating story to tell. I listened to this man, expecting him to be the big personality of the MTV Showcase, and discovering him to be a thorough, thoughtful if not quietly spoken professional, tell a tale of success coupled with mistakes, and failures and the lesson in humility that he learned the first time he sat atop an empire as Vice President of Uptown Records, and came tumbling down. Openly stating that he had lost the foundation of reality with his new found fame and fortune, he made mistakes fueled by ego that dearly cost him, left him reeling, and forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and values to begin anew. Today he is more successful than ever, and spotlights to the world a man of solid foundation, hard work ethic and attributable to a team of people and collaborators in business. He took very little credit for the empire built, and the accomplishments made, deferring instead to people and personalities that held his hand to the achievements.
The other was a magazine I picked up in flight en route to the West Coast. The article written by Brad Meltzer a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Fate and six other thrillers.
The author was on a quest in search of the type of role model he wanted to be to his new born son, and made discoveries in his quest that continued to replay the same theme. Humble. Humility. Being one of many.
My favorite reference and insight came from the understanding of who Thomas Jefferson truly was. He was third President of the United States, and he authored the might Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is without a doubt one of the greatest decree’s in our Western Civilization, however lesser known is that T. Jefferson never touted his role in the decree nor took credit for its publication. Upon election, few knew he had in fact penned the document. It turns out; he was selling the American Public on a vision of a great country, thus extending the credit to a collaborative. A country.
Like those before me, this provoked thought and introspection. Can we exist in business locally and globally, and make a name for ourselves or set ourselves apart without wearing our accolades on our breast plate for recognition and advancement?
Jack Daly, a renowned sales coach and mentor is noted as having stated the following; “The driving force of a company that makes things happen doesn’t need the spotlight. Often the greatest business leaders are the ones who give credit to the team. Those are the companies that perform at a level of excellence.”
Are the best leaders in business the ones who take a quieter approach and attribute the successes to their teams?
The Declaration, while authored by Thomas Jefferson initially, was in fact edited over and over by a bevy of people who all made their mark, changed some of the content and to whom Jefferson deferred. It was COLLABORATIVE.
“The single most important first step is to make sure you have the right people around you, people better than you,” said Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”. “Get the right people on the bus and the right people in key seats before you figure out where to drive the bus.”
I love these quotes, and the book sits prominently on my desk for a point of reference as I myself plunder forward and attempt to navigate my way through this brave new world.
Looking at what works and doesn’t work, and empowering a team to think outside the box, bring their ideas to the table and work together to achieve the end result is in my estimation an excellent leader. Understanding how it works, or doesn’t, from the ground up, provide the sturdy foundation for revision, additions and ultimately growth. Jefferson had to consider what didn’t work, take into account the ideas of the author for the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by the philosopher John Locke, and evaluate the consequences. He called upon the work of another to birth the idea that exists today.
A favorite reference in leadership is the Xerox story. On the threshold of dissolution, and with 5 chronological quarterly losses and entrenched in the Securities Exchange Commission investigation the corporation was in tremendous debt. Board members in desperation decided to take a leap and executed a different plan. Promoting a 24 year veteran who began her career as a field rep, Anne Mulcahy took a stock dive of 15%. Realizing her limitations however, and recognizing a need for help, she sought more knowledge from within the corporation to build her understanding of the finances involved in her position. Instead of adhering to the failing business model of other industry leaders, or overreaching in pursuit of dominance, Ms. Mulcahy sought out clients and corporation employees to gather information and insight for ideas of what could be done. Restructuring the debt, closing divisions no longer generating profit and taking into consideration, listening to those from whom she sought the information, Xerox turned around and gained profit.
Mulcahy, with many prestigious and notable awards and recognitions is still lesser known to the success story of Xerox, because to the greater public, Xerox is Xerox, and not Anne Mulcahy. But because of Anne, we know XEROX.
Without the team of players in an organization there is no leader and without the leader there are no players. This is collaborative. It is a TEAM. Those who lead by intimidation, “do as I say, not as I do”, and do not empower their talent to contribute are defeating themselves in their own success efforts.
A fan of Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” I am often astounded by the message he sends when the infamous boardroom meeting occurs and someone gets fired. I believe in accountability and responsibility. I believe that these character traits define who we are and how we work, and lends credibility in business. In a recent episode, three were in the boardroom. One having been credited with the success of a portion of the project which gained recognition admitted that the core of the idea or concept had in fact been the inspiration of the Project Manager whose head was on the chopping block. She was told by Mr. Trump that her accountability in deferring her success to the P.M who inspired the idea, cost her job, and she was fired. He went on to state that had she kept her mouth shut and simply taken the credit as it was delivered to her, she might retain the position. I was astounded. We teach our children to take responsibility. We teach them to be accountable. We promote this in the formative years as an asset and trait, and yet in business are told that this is stupid and ultimately can cost us employment. So which is it?
Re-evaluating those ideas and morals that no longer resonate with us, and redirecting the decisions, accolades and recognition for accomplishments and taking responsibility for the mistakes and failures are the signs and characteristics of excellence in leadership. These traits make us stronger, empower us and those around us, and lend to the idea that a TEAM is stronger than a singular player and much more can be accomplished in the vision of the project and business. Giving credit where credit is due without fear of losing something of ourselves, our prestige or title in the process defines our integrity in business and makes us industry leaders in business, forging ahead in these times when it is most difficult. It does not have to be Dog-eat-Dog. It does not have to be ALL-FOR-ME and throw fellow man under the bus. It can, as proven time and time again, over the ages, from Jefferson to Mulcahy, be a team effort of success defining a company as a whole, and not as its leader.
Humility, however hard learned is the most important lesson in business today. I would not be the person I am without the relationships along the way, the insight, thoughts, ideas, inspiration, feedback and guidance, accomplishments and mistakes of those who have touched my life professionally and personally. I stand by the lesson learned that I am only as great as my team. These relationships are global, have no borders or boundaries and span many cultures, ideals principals and methods. They are from United States, Italy, Mexico and Canada. I am nothing without them, and it is to them I defer the credit and value. Without them I am part of a sum, with them I am the whole of it. Through them I am what I am. Humbled, forever the caliber of the business person I continue to be.
“Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance; but largely a matter of conscience choice and discipline” (Jim Collins)