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Real Leaders Eat a Lot of PIE

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions. Not me. I don't want to be a manager or a dictator. I want to be a leader -- and leadership is ongoing, adjustable, flexible, and dynamic." --Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball coach

Many of our private companies, many of our public organizations, and many of our families are in desperate need of leadership. Instead they're filled with small thinkers who make very little progress in the face of very big problems.

As Krzyzewski points out ... we need ongoing, adjustable, flexible, dynamic leadership. Not a lot of petty people fighting petty turf battles ... "sticking to the rules" and "the way we've always done it."

Most of the world is in some sort of crisis right now, and bold, creative leadership is needed just about every place we look. The good news is ... we don't have to wait for some magically-endowed leader to come along and save us ... at home or on the job. YOU and I can assert a good healthy dose of leadership where ever we are ... to make things better ... starting right now.

You ask, "How can that be?" I defer to Maria Urani, the Vice President of Delivery Services for Nationwide Insurance. I spoke at her national meeting last week, and I was super impressed with her presentation on leadership, and I was equally impressed with the 300+ people in the audience who have learned to assert leadership in each of their roles.

Urani made it very simple. She said leadership is really a PIE, where P = Performance, I = Image, and E = Exposure. When you focus on those three elements, you will succeed. So let me summarize what she had to say and add a few of my own bullet points. To be an effective leader, it has to start with ...

You can only get by on charm and oratory for a little while. When the crises come, you'd better have a long-standing record of performance behind you ... to guide you on the long road ahead of you. If you can answer "yes" to all 7 of these questions, you've mastered the P in PIE. So ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do you have a consistent record of performance for every role you have played and are now playing?

  2. Do you always give it your all?

  3. Are you a team player? (In the "Army Leadership Values," they call this "Selfless Service" -- to put the welfare of the nation before your own. Likewise, as a true leader, you should be putting your team, your company, or your family above your own personal ambitions."

  4. Can you influence others?

  5. Are you results-driven?

  6. Do you consider constructive feedback and act upon it?

  7. Are you actively developing the leadership potential of others?
Larry Bossidy, the CEO of Allied Signal, has frequently commented on this last question. When asked, "How are you doing as a leader?" Bossidy always replies, "The answer is, 'How are the people you lead doing? Do they learn? Do they visit customers? Do they manage conflict? Do they initiate change? Are they growing and getting promoted?"

As Bossidy continues, "You won't remember when you retire what you did in the first quarter or the third. What you'll remember is how many people you developed -- how many people you helped have a better career because of your interest and your dedication to their development. When confused as to how you're doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. You'll know the answer."

Noel Tichy, the author of "The Leadership Engine" has also written extensively on this seventh question. After his several decades of research, he asks, "Why do some companies succeed while others fail? The answer I have come up with is that winning companies win because they have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization."

"The ultimate test of success for an organization," Tichy goes on to say, "is not whether it can win today, but whether it can keep winning tomorrow and the day after. Therefore, the ultimate test for a leader is not whether he or she can make smart decisions and take decisive action, but whether he or she can teach others to be leaders and build an organization that remains successful even when he or she is not around. The key ability of winning organizations and winning leaders is creating leaders."

When your PERFORMANCE is excellent, when you have this first piece of the PIE in good shape, then you have to look at the second element of effective leadership, which is...

Urani says you have to ask yourself three questions in this category. She says others have to know about you, and what they know had better be good.

  1. What would others say about you?

  2. Are you a role model? (You see ... good leaders are both confident and modest. Somehow or other, they know it's not about making themselves more powerful; it's about making the people around them more powerful.)

  3. Do others know your role and what you have to offer? (Leaders let others know what they do and can do. They're neither in-your-face boastful nor are they wilting wallflowers hoping to be discovered.) And I would add a fourth question...

  4. Do you lead by example? Do you walk your talk? Are you filled with integrity?
In 1982, James E. Burke, the head of Johnson and Johnson, got the most important call of his life. Seven people in Chicago had died when they took Tylenol pills that had been laced with poison. Over the next few days, government officials and Johnson & Johnson executives scrambled to figure out what was happening. For Johnson & Johnson, this was a moment of truth. The whole world was watching.

Within days it became clear that this was an isolated incident, and J & J was the victim of a terrible crime. In spite of its innocence, J & J continued removing 31 million bottles from store shelves and taking returns from customers. The decision cost the company $100 million, but it was an unmistakable act of integrity the world never forgot. That's leadership.

Somehow or other, Burke knew that leaders make changes, but they stand for values that don't. And as a leader, you need to help people identify which values and operations are so central to your core as a group ... that if you lost them, you'd lose yourselves.

Finally, to be an effective leader, you must have the third piece of the PIE, which is ...

Urani suggests at least three questions in this category.

  1. Do you have a mentor? (In other words, you can't expect people to change and grow if you're not changing and growing. So you'd better have a mentor that keeps on challenging you to move on to bigger and better things ... and at the same time holds you accountable.

    That's why mayor Rudolph Giuliani says leaders need to be great listeners. He says no one has all the answers. So learn to listen more than you speak. It's the best way to learn so much more about other topics and other people.

  2. Who do you know? Who knows you? (In fact, Giuliani advises leaders to make unexpected connections. Organize and lead conversations among people who don't normally interact with each other. After all, if you don't network, you may not work.)

  3. Do others respect you? Do you respect others? (Again, I defer to the Army Leadership Values. As I speak a great deal to the Army, Air Force and National Guard around the country, I see their values emphasized over and over again. They say, "Respect -- to treat people as they should be treated," is a non-negotiable. It had better be there all the time.)
In summary, you DO have leadership potential that has not been 100% developed, and your leadership is needed at work, at home, and everyplace else in the world. With an industrious PERFORMANCE, an admirable IMAGE, and an adequate EXPOSOSURE you can make this a better place. After all, all three elements of the PIE are under your control.

Today is the day you take a step towards more effective leadership in your life and your world. It's not somebody else's job. It's your job too. So what are you going to do?

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success, Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site for more information.

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