Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Terry Leahy, the former C.E.O. of Tesco, the British supermarket chain. He asserts, “Stay focused, and your career will manage itself.”
To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
Photo credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times
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Bryant: Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?
Leahy: I joined Tesco pretty much right out of college. And actually I turned down my first promotion because I didn’t think I was ready to lead.
Bryant: That’s surprising.
Leahy: It was a tiny marketing department in Tesco, with just a few people, and we were crunching data. A senior guy found me buried under all these reports and obviously saw something, and he eventually suggested that I lead the department. I turned it down. I’m by nature a shy person, and I’d never had any responsibility, and I was daunted by the thought of it. But the next time he asked me, about a year later, I said O.K. I figured I can’t keep saying no; it wasn’t really that I suddenly felt I was ready.
Bryant: So what was your approach once you started managing people?
Leahy: I suppose the contribution I made was energizing people by setting an objective and making a big personal contribution toward that objective. The other thing was probably that I always had an innate sense of justice and fairness, so I probably treated people O.K. Because I’m a little introverted, I’ve never had personal favorites, so people always felt that they’d be treated the same as anybody else.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.
Through his interactive program, The Music Paradigm, he has taught hundreds of top companies around the world how to improve their leadership skills and teamwork.
You now have an opportunity to watch a brief but intertaining as well as informative film of Roger in action. Please click here.
I urge you to check out Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading by Listening is his first book, published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2009).
To read my review of Mestro, please click here.
To read my interview of Roger, please click here.
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Greatness” is one of the terms that have become essentially useless because their meaning depends almost entirely on the person who defines them. So I was curious to share what David Lapin has to say about those who “lead by greatness.” They are great leaders who make their organizations great. OK. “In this book, I set out to demonstrate the correlation between the greatness of human character and business results” other than those financial in nature. OK.
Lapin organizes his material within three Parts: First, he shares what he has learned about how to change one’s self, to improve one’s self, to develop one’s values that, “at the deepest levels,” determine the decisions we make. Next, he explains how to have beneficial impact on others, helping them to complete the self self-fulfillment process. Then in Part Three, he shifts his attention to explaining how to widen and deepen the impact of a person’s character (i.e. values, decisions, behavior) on community, society, and even generations to come.
According to Lapin, great leaders must become (i.e. develop certain character traits of greatness such as the eight that he suggests) before they can do (e.g. attract followers, pursue a shared vision, achieve common goals). I agree. He seems convinced that almost anyone can become capable of leading by greatness. In theory, I agree. However, I am among those who have become convinced that leadership greatness as Lapin defines it is very rare. I agree with Lao Tzu who observes in Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
One of this book’s greatest strengths (among many) is Lapin’s clear and consistent focus on the importance to each person of completing a journey of personal discovery. Its purpose is to reveal all manner of potentialities but also to clarify – indeed affirm – certain values such as authenticity, humility, and generosity, three values that are also central to the leadership Lao Tzu celebrates in the passage cited. Lapin immediately establishes and then sustains a direct, personal rapport with his reader. Many will feel as I did that he wrote book specifically for them. They will never be alone during their often difficult and sometimes perilous journey of personal discovery.
I presume to share one final point. With all due respect to the importance of great leaders, the more compelling need – in my opinion — is for sufficient numbers of principled people whose lives are purpose-driven, who “follow by greatness.” Without them, the achievements of those whom we now view as great leaders would not have been possible.
As you already know, there are endless uses for quotations. Here are thirteen that caught my eye.
“When you have learned something, that always feels at first as if you’ve lost something.” H.G. Wells
“What the mothers sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin.” Henry Ward Beecher
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.” Søren Kierkegaard
“Too many people over-value what they are not and under-value what they are.” Malcolm Forbes
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Albert Einstein
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Always be a beginner at something.” Bill Buxton
“I’m a great believer in luck, and find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson
“Life is about moving, it’s about change. And when things stop doing that, they’re dead.” Twyla Tharp
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki-Foshi
“ I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.” Marshall McLuhan
“If you never allow your children to exceed what they can do, how are they ever going to manage adult life – where a lot of it is managing more than you thought you could manage?” Ellen Galinsky
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Scott Shane and featured by Bloomberg Businessweek. To read the complete article, check out others, obtain subscription information, please click here.
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While small business job creation isn’t as strong as we’d like, it’s stronger than many people think. Since the recovery began, small and midsize companies have been producing more jobs than their larger counterparts and creating them at a faster pace than during the recovery from the 2001 recession. But because small business employment hasn’t yet caught up to where it was before the recession began, the perception that small employers aren’t hiring endures.
This matters more than you might think. Since big companies and small companies each account for about half of private sector employment, employment growth is usually strongest when both are creating jobs. Knowing which one is lagging the other helps Washington figure out what policies we need to boost employment growth.
Let’s look at the data. The ADP (ADP) Employment Report, a monthly analysis of employment at more than 300,000 private businesses using ADP payroll services, shows that companies with up to 49 workers employed 2.6 percent more people in March 2012 than they did in July 2009, when the economic recovery began. Similarly, businesses with 50 to 499 workers employed 3.2 percent more people last month than they did at the start of the recovery. Companies with 500 or more workers, however, employed 0.2 percent fewer people this March than in July 2009.
The Intuit (INTU) Small Business Employment Index, a monthly reporting of the number of people working at about 70,000 companies that have fewer than 20 employees and that make use of Intuit Online Payroll shows a similar pattern. The Intuit Index was up 4.7 percent from July 2009 to February 2012. By contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ measure of U.S. non-farm employment, which includes employment at larger businesses and in the public sector as well as at small businesses, increased by only 1.9 percent.
Job creation at small companies has also been pretty robust when compared with the previous recovery. In the 33 months since the current recovery began, small employers added 2.6 million jobs, a 2.9 percent increase in employment, ADP figures show. By contrast, in the first 33 months of the recovery from the 2001 recession, small employers added 1.8 million jobs, a 2.1 percent increase.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Scott Shane is the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University.