This week in my Leadership and Organizational Behavior class we were asked to listen to a single podcast from the iTunes U series, Leadership: Conversations from the Corner Office. We then were asked to relate the podcast to the laws of Buy-In, Victory and Momentum from the book we’re reading called The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. In addition to the single podcast, I took the time to listen to each individual podcasts so that I could find out more about each company and how they approach leadership. I found many of the conversations with these top leaders to be very interesting and enlightening. I hope that you enjoy reading my analysis and findings.
First let’s go over what each law is that I’ll be referring to.
The Law of Buy-In
“You believe in someone’s ideas after you already believe in the person. Practice selling YOU instead of just your ideas” (source).
The Law of Victory
“When something doesn’t work out, you learn something new. But it’s important not to start with that idea or else you might give in to it. Strive for nothing less than total victory today” (source).
The Law of Momentum
“Momentum is capital. With every success, you build momentum that makes the next success easier. Take something small and use its success to do something bigger” (source).
Now I’ll be answering the questions provided by my instructor.
How do these leaders approach the concept of momentum?
It sounds like most of these leaders approach the concept of momentum with careful planning. Momentum is not something that just happens over night; it takes time. Along with planning I also feel it took years of hard work, dedication, trial and error and many struggles. You live and learn and the same things goes with the business. Some of the leaders interviewed did not even have any business background or degrees. That just proves that anyone can be a leader and a college degree is not always necessary. I think it’s all about the way you handle yourself and the situation, plus the ability to build momentum that can be executed in a positive way.
James Rogers from Duke Energy talked about how he set long-term goals and objectives for the company. He focused on creating milestones so that with each new milestone, the company would increase in growth and progress.
Gary Kelly from Southwest Airlines talked about how the company started out with a small amount of airplanes and increased over time. Their success is what helped them to be able to slowly but surely increase their amount of airplanes, which then gave them the ability to service more customers and increase profits.
What do they say about buy-in and victory? Empowerment?
Southwest Airlines is a great example of empowerment and buying in. They are focused on their employees. As Gary Kelly stated, “we focus on the heart and souls of employees [and] empower employees to be themselves.” They give their employees flexibility and list them as a top priority. Gary also stated that Southwest has never had a layoff or pay cut and they keep their costs low so that they can share the savings with their employees; this is very impressive. It must be really amazing to work for a company like Southwest. The focus on employees really encourages everyone to want to do their best. Like with the law of buy-in, the employees believe in the leaders because of the priceless treatment that they receive. With faith in the leaders, the employees are more apt to believe in every new idea that Southwest approaches them with. In turn, their employees are going to be willing to give 200% to help achieve each company goal. This is all because they have bought into their leaders, who have nothing but the utmost respect for them.
Starbucks is another great example of the buying in. After hearing the short interview with Howard Schultz, I was ready to go put in an application to Starbucks myself. Why? Because Starbucks has made a commitment to all of their employees. They are committed to providing healthcare to each employee, even part-timers. This is something that you do not find at too many companies. This alone makes people want to work for Starbucks and give their all everyday in their position. Howard pointed out that between 46 – 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. This is a very unfortunate and sad situation, yet it’s the country we live in. With Starbuck’s focus on supplying healthcare to their workers, it empowers the employees and in turn they buy into the company and into their ideas. Howard said that this has helped them create more productive people and that they’re “able to attract and retain fantastic people because of the culture of the company which is defined by these benefits.”
Sumner Redstone from Viacom and Mel Karmazin from Sirius Radio both talked about how they always want to be #1 and will never accept failure; this is right in line with the law of victory. Both men have the same philosophy and even the interviewer (Kai Ryssdal) wondered why they hadn’t worked together before. Simply put, Sumner Redstone said, “the way to stay mentally engaged is to stay mentally engaged.” He talked about how he is always going to China and learning new things. He likes to keep his mind working so that he doesn’t become complacent. You really can’t expect to be victorious if you’re going to be lazy! Mel Karmazin talked about creating an environment at work to encourage people to be creative and want to be there. Also providing the proper tools to help them win and be victorious is key. However, he also stated that he doesn’t feel that two people who have been CEOs can combine and work together (which is why he’s never worked with Sumner Redstone). Maybe it’s because he is just so competitive, that he wants to be #1 all on his own and not share the recognition. Who knows?
What do they say about motivation and models of leadership?
Joseph Gallo from E&J Gallo Winery provided a great list of tips required for being successful in his business. These tips were passed down to him from a family member (I think he said it was his uncle). Although he says that they are for his own personal industry, I really think that they can be used for just about any industry.
The tips were:
- Stay independent and stay private.
- Hire good people.
- Always strive for perfection.
- You never should be satisfied.
- Don’t plan too far ahead.
- Have the sense of urgency
- Work like hell.
- Be lucky.
Joseph also said that you shouldn’t look back too much; instead look forward and focus on the future. I really like that philosophy. Why look back? Most of the time (at least for me) it’s just a painful reminder of things that did not go your way because of poor planning or some other unfortunate cause. Who wants to be reminded of their mistakes? I too prefer to just look forward and keep on pressing toward my future goals.
Anne Mulcahy from Xerox talked about how you have to like your company and the people who you work with and I agree. I feel that this helps motivate you to want to do good on the job. Also, you can’t lead and motivate others if you don’t have any motivation yourself. She also says that having good relationships and knowing where to go to get things done is important. Another thing I liked that she said is that you should give credit where credit is due. She gave all the credit to the people of Xerox and she didn’t take any credit for herself.
What other meaningful leadership lessons did you find?
Each of the companies had their preference: to either focus on employees/retention, focus on consumers/service or focus on both. I’ve learned that where you decide to focus depends on your industry and niche, but whatever you decide it’s important to follow through and keep (your preference) as a top priority.
I also learned from James Ziemer of Harley-Davidson that people really need to feel connected to a brand. He said that people have to feel like the brand is a member of the family. He used the example of people getting Harley-Davidson tattoos; they really must feel connected to it if they’re willing to have it displayed on their body forever. As a leader, you have to learn how to create this connection between your brand and your consumers.
Mary Sammons from Rite Aid pointed out that it’s important to take time out to talk to your clients. She said, “if people believe that you are going to do the right thing and listen to them, word [will] travel fast. Then everyone starts believing that you can make this happen.” This also exemplifies the law of buy-in. You have to build that trust and loyalty, which often involves getting on a personal level and keeping the lines of communication going on a regular basis with your consumers or suppliers. Whatever you have to do, just make sure you do it to the best of your ability.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed my take on Leadership: Conversations from the Corner Office.