So, there are only a few weeks before my book on what makes a leader comes out. As I get more and more requests to speak at events about my book, “From the Sandbox to the Corner Office“, I been thinking a lot about what the heck I’m going to be speaking about.
I interviewed 55 CEOs and leaders from all walks of life about events and people that have shaped them as leaders. I came up with everything from parents who spanked them to confrontations with discrimination. They took life’s challenges and somehow got a lesson out of it. One CEO lost his son in infancy. Another struggled with stuttering all his life. Yet another was gropped by a pervert during a lunch meeting, and somehow she ended up with the upper hand. (No pun intended.) These men and women seemed not to be cry babies.
OK, so who cares about CEOs, right? They’re fun to bash these days, especially given the antics of people like the now deceased Ken Lay, and an endless stream of corrupt head honchos that took down companies and their unsuspecting workers that came to work everyday hoping to provide a better life for their families and have a comfortable retirement.
Well, while everyone is bitching about how bad these guys are why not think about becoming a leader yourself. Change things, become a caring CEOs that wants as much for their employees as their shareholders, or themselves. Maybe one that figures out how to jive a clean environment with a solid bottom line. Show the world it’s not about greed, but about providing jobs, growing a company, a nonprofit, or creating a business or project to help the community.
I know, I sound, you think I’m wacky. But I remember a time when companies could make modest profits and still be considered successful if they were good civic members and provided good jobs and benefits to their employees. I remember interviewing the CEO of Kinney Shoes many years ago. His name was Cam Anderson and he was one of the nicest guys I ever met. He talked about how much the company and the people that worked for it meant to him.
He ended up getting pushed out by Wall Street, who wanted him to cut jobs in order to make bigger profits. He refused, and despite the fact that he was the brains behind the Foot Locker empire, he was soon out of a job.
The CEOs I’ve interviewed over the years aren’t part of some secret society. While some indeed suckled at the gold teat, many were just regular Joes starting out. Poor immigrants, disabled, confused. They made tons of mistakes, many they sort of sounded proud about because they learned big things from those big mistakes that they believe helped them become leaders.
Anyway, enough said…for today at least.