Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership Blogs

Learning to Trust Your Judgment

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This blog was previously published by Trust Across America – Trust Around the World as a part of their 100 Days of Organizational Trust program. We hope you will enjoy this blog and also visit their website for more great blogs and other insights on trust. Many folks are reluctant to trust their own judgment. They may feel they should not speak up when some alarm bell is going off in their head for a variety of reasons: “It’s not my job to speak up.” “I’m not in a position of leadership or authority.” “I’m not smart enough on this topic.” “I don’t have the experience needed to speak up.” All these blocks are normal, but we need to learn to trust our own judgment and speak up when it is essential   …Continue Reading


Special Leadership Responsibilities of Boards

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  Boards have special leadership responsibilities to ensure their firms are trustworthy. If their firms are not trustworthy, they will suffer at the hands of regulators, customers, employees, and shareholders. But surely boards are consumed with the important duties of corporate governance, strategy, risk management, compliance, executive compensation, and succession. Can we realistically expect boards to take on something as ethereal as trust? Yes, we must. Boards cannot discharge their fiduciary duties without attention to the trustworthiness of their firm. Decades ago, the vast majority of an organization’s assets were tangible, such as cash, equipment, and buildings. Today, intangible assets, including corporate brand and reputation, often predominate. Boards have a fiduciary obligation to protect these intangibles, which can be tarnished with the pressing of a cell phone’s video camera, or   …Continue Reading


Why Boards Should Pay Attention to Corporate Culture

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“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” Lou Gerstner, former IBM CEO   Most boards think “culture” is the soft, fuzzy stuff that some CEO’s or HR leaders may pay attention to. These boards are sadly wrong. A high-performing, ethical culture can be a great source of competitive advantage. An organization’s culture is “how we do things here”—how people behave in their relationships. Business is a set of relationships, and healthy relationships are built in trust. Organizations with a toxic culture pay a heavy price in lost revenue, damaged reputation, lawsuits, and more. By contrast, organizations with a high-performance, trust-based culture (e.g., Southwest Airlines, Zappos.com, and Patagonia) enjoy a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle with their stakeholders. They build trust and employees unleash more of their talents and   …Continue Reading


Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change

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Our friend and colleague, Bob Whipple, the Trust Ambassador and CEO of Leadergrow, has written an important new book, Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Here’s a review of it I posted on Amazon.com: “Priceless and Practical. Don’t embark upon an organizational change effort before reading this book.   Bob Whipple, the Trust Ambassador, has written an important book. During my years leading organizations in extreme transitions, I wish I had had Bob’s book with me. Transitions, such as mergers, often fail or operate sub-optimally due to cultural issues, frequently because the parties involved lack trust in one another. Bob outlines steps leaders can take when embarking upon organizational change to mitigate the risks and avoid the pitfalls. Especially useful are his Figures and Tables, illustrating clearly the barriers to navigating   …Continue Reading


A Life in Leadership: The Legacy of Warren Bennis

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Recently, the world lost a giant in the field of leadership and a remarkable human being, Warren Bennis, who passed away at age 89. I was fortunate to get to know Warren years ago through a mutual friend, Christopher Gergen. Together, the three of us strolled by the beach in Santa Monica, visiting in his home, sharing meals, and—best of all—seeing him in action with his beloved students in “The Art and Adventure of Leadership” course at the University of Southern California. The way he connected with students was remarkable. We also became colleagues of sorts when our book, Life Entrepreneurs, appeared in the Warren Bennis Book Series at Jossey-Bass. Warren’s background is instructive. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 at age 18 and served as one of   …Continue Reading


Servant Leadership through Time

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The concept of leaders as servants goes back into ancient history but was articulated most clearly in the 20th century by Robert Greenleaf in an essay, “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970. In the next four years, two more essays explored ideas that an entire institution – and a society – could act as servants, and that trustees should act as servants. In 1976, Paulist Press published Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, a book that combined these and other essays. See The Center for Servant Leadership. Bob joined the chorus in 1995, when he contributed a chapter on “Servant Leadership and the Future” in a book edited by Larry Spears called Reflections on Leadership: How Robert K. Greenleaf’s Theory of Servant-Leadership Influenced Today’s Top Management Thinkers. The   …Continue Reading


CEO Tip: Trust Your Board As Your Ally

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  Some CEO’s and boards have close, trusting partnerships that serve them and their firms extremely well. They are, in my experience, the minority. Most CEO’s I have met see the board as a group they need to “manage,” a dinner and meeting they need to prepare for, taking preciously valuable time away from running the business, which is the CEO’s real job. To many CEO’s, the board is tolerated, professionally and courteously of course, but a group relatively uninformed about how hard it is to really run the business. The time spent preparing for board meetings is huge. Staff reports prepared; rehearsals of PowerPoint presentations; after-meeting meetings to decipher what the board now wants and what to do to get ready for the next session. What’s the solution? A   …Continue Reading


Paradoxes of Leadership

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Paradox: A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.   Leadership is rife with paradoxes, competing claims, countervailing pressures, and conflicts. There is frequently a “thesis” and an “antithesis” in leadership dilemmas, often requiring a “synthesis.” Here are some leadership paradoxes and other interesting dualities we have learned: Serving followers and being served by followers Flexing between the hard (steel) and soft (velvet) edges of leadership Being optimistic while staying grounded in reality Having confidence and humility Being decisive and collaborative Protecting people and taking necessary “casualties” Being in charge and unleashing other leaders Getting results (ends) with integrity (means) Preserving the best of the past and embracing change Making some lonely decisions and being connected Asking and telling Speaking and listening Being patient and impatient Knowing answers and   …Continue Reading


A New, Overarching Goal for Boards

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One of the painful results of boards embracing the goal to “maximize shareholder value” is shown in the Edelman Trust Barometer: Only 53% of respondents trust business Only 18% of the general population trust business leaders to tell the truth The overarching goal for corporate boards should not be to maximize shareholder value. Instead, boards should set as their primary objective to: Build an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. Excellent means achieving extraordinary results for customers, employees, and shareholders. Ethical means achieving those results the right way, with integrity, not cutting ethical corners. Enduring means achieving those results sustainably, being conscious of the firm’s impact on the planet, and acting responsibly to ensure precious resources are not wasted. Enduring also means acting sustainably inside the firm, not burning people out, nor   …Continue Reading


Leadership Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

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J.R.R. Tolkien in military uniform, 1916. Image: public domain Leaders Venture into the Unknown “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins Leaders Step Up “I will take the Ring,” Frodo said, “though I do not know the way.” The Burdens of Leadership  Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Leaders Undertake Great Challenges “This is the hour of the   …Continue Reading


Put Trust on Your Daily Docket  

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Let’s assume that as a CEO or board leader you want your firm to be viewed as trustworthy by its stakeholders. You realize a more trusting set of relationships between people will be useful, perhaps even a breakthrough to improved performance. Great. But this is a field where you don’t have expertise. You have been bred in the battles of line and staff assignments where results had to be achieved, new ideas implemented, and problems resolved fast. Building organizational trust is a strange, new endeavor. What can you do? Give them some books to read? Hire a consultant to conduct some workshops? Tell everyone you’ll put “trustworthiness” into the performance appraisals? That will get their attention, but it may not help much. Fortunately, unlike ethics, or values, trust is a   …Continue Reading


Blame Boards For Excessive CEO Pay and Perks

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Compensation levels for CEO’s and C-suite execs took off like a rocket starting in the 1980’s. It was caused by the dual whammy of Milton Friedman’s “maximize shareholder value” maxim and the advent of the “leveraged buyout” focus from private equity firms. I should know because I participated in those phenomena as a CEO. The stock options I was granted during those years far exceeded the norms of option grants in prior decades as boards tried to “align” management’s financial interests with those of shareholders. There is nothing inherently wrong in private equity, stock options, in divesting unproductive assets, or delayering bloated companies. Those undertakings are a healthy part of marketplace adjustments, as long as they are done ethically and respectfully. But the C-suite financial gains that boards approved to,   …Continue Reading


Tweet Chat: Speak Your Mind about The Essentials of Leadership

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Tweet Chat August 4 ~ Monday 7 pm eastern, 5 pm mountain time The Essentials of Leadership #leadwithgiants   Join Bob Vanourek and Dan Forbes, the guru of Lead with Giants, for an exciting, interactive Tweet Chat on August 4 at 7 pm eastern time (5 pm mountain) on: The Essentials of Leadership  Tweet Chats are a fun way to engage in a conversation with many others on Twitter. It’s easy to do. You send out a tweet that includes: #leadwithgiants  You will be networked with many others around the globe. Dan will ask Bob questions about the Essentials of Leadership; Bob will respond; and you can respond too with tweet comments, adding, agreeing, disagreeing, or retweeting related posts from other Tweeters. The session ends after 60 minutes. Just don’t forget   …Continue Reading


Does Your Board Have Your CEO’s Back?

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  One of the great scourges of our age is “short-termism.” A staggering 78 percent of CFOs and CEOs admit to sacrificing long-term value to achieve smoother earnings. Many decry this “suicide by quarter” mentality, but few CEO’s will be able to withstand the pressure to make the quarterly numbers unless he or she has the full, vocal support of the board. When the CEO and CFO conduct the conference call and get hammered by day traders or short sellers, and when the stock dips because the company didn’t make the whisper number the Street expected, what will the board do? Hide? Talk among themselves about whether or not the CEO will “make it”? If so, your CEO won’t trust your board. Without this trust, the CEO’s job is too   …Continue Reading


Generations in the Workplace

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“Why can’t we just all get along?” -Oft quoted lament As Boomers stay in the workplace longer, the Gen Xers move up to management positions, and the Millennials progress into the world of work, it can seem there are insurmountable generational conflicts. But the truth is that different generations in the workplace can develop rich, innovative breakthroughs if they focus less on their differences and more on what they share. The differences have been heralded by many. Boomers (birth dates after WW II): Sense of duty; longtime employment commitment; family values; uncomfortable expressing feelings; not tech savvy. Gen Xers (birth dates early 1960s to early 1980s): Want involvement and participation; like autonomy; less formal; tech savvy; loose schedules. Millennials (birth dates from the early 1980s): Social networkers; see no limits;   …Continue Reading


Do Your C-Suite Execs See Value in People?

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Some C-suite execs see themselves as wonderful gifts to their firm. After all, they have all the right tickets punched: the right schools, an accomplished track record, and charisma. These are the execs with the right clothes, cars, and houses. They enjoy their generous compensation and perks. They convey a message of: “It’s good to be great” with willing followers hoping some day they can reach such lofty heights. The fatal problem is these “great ones” can’t possibly cope with the complexity and hyper-fast pace of today’s world. No matter how smart they are, no matter how many hours they work, no matter what new innovations they embrace, they can’t do it alone. They need the depth and breadth of ideas and heartfelt implementation from many people inside and outside   …Continue Reading


Transparency Builds Trust

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iStock Photo Let’s consider two otherwise identical firms. Rocket Corp. issues their quarterly earnings press results, focusing on their financial results. Then they conduct their quarterly conference call with investors, reporting their revenue, margins, profitability, cash levels, and citing their revenue and earnings guidance for the next quarter and year. They take questions from those investors on the call and then put the directives out to the management team that: “This is what we have to do to make the numbers for the quarter, otherwise our stock will be hammered.” Endurance Inc. also issues a quarterly press release and conducts an investor conference call, but in addition to the same financial data that Rocket Corp. issued (excluding earnings guidance), they report many additional metrics: Customers: Revenue and market share details   …Continue Reading


Everyone Leads at Times

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    “Leadership is your choice, not your title.” Stephen R. Covey Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not a leader”? “Fair enough,” you might think. Some people are just not into that leadership thing. Perhaps they have other talents or interests. Or they are reluctant to take responsibility, or afraid of not leading well. Not so fast. Everyone leads something at some time (whether poorly or well). They may lead at home, or with friends, at school, on a project, or at work. And our world desperately needs better leadership—in companies, communities, families, governments, nonprofits, education institutions, and more. Leadership is massively misunderstood. Don’t confuse leadership with power, or authority, or someone’s title. Leadership isn’t really about one person at the top of an organizational pyramid making   …Continue Reading


The World Cup and Great Leadership

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Watching the great performances at the 2014 F.I.F.A. World Cup in Brazil, we noticed many parallels between football (soccer) and great leadership. Competing at the World Cup and employing great leadership both take: Patience. The game is long and can sometimes appear uneventful to the untrained eye, but then there are spurts of breakaway brilliance and intensity with tackles, moves, sprints, crosses, shots, and saves. Great leadership is willing to grind out tasks over the long term, ready for bursts of activity when opportunities arise. Stamina. The heat and humidity in Brazil wear down the best performers. Similarly, the pressures of leadership require one to stay the course and not give up. “You will go through tough times, it’s about getting through them.” -David Beckham, legendary U.K. footballer Hard Work. It   …Continue Reading


The Longest Tail (Guest Blog by Walt Hampton)

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According to Steve Coburn, “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the race since Day 1.” Coburn is the co-owner of California Chrome, once thought to be the heir to the Triple Crown, who lost at Belmont. “Look at it this way, if you can’t make enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races. It’s all or nothing, because it’s not fair to these horses who have been running their guts out since Day 1,” Coburn spewed before his wife dragged him off camera. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair. And leaders – real leaders – know that. When I was growing up, I used to compete in the Central-Belden PTA Pet Show. Well, not me, exactly. I would   …Continue Reading


Alignment: A Transformational Process

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  Organizational alignment is a transformational leadership process, requiring extensive, multidirectional communication, with deep listening and dialogue, not edicts from the top. Alignment is a “we” process, not an “I” process. It is is a back-and-forth, up, down, and sideways leadership process that should touch everyone in the organization, even some outside stakeholders on some steps. Alignment takes time and patience. It can be messy and frustrating, requiring many midcourse corrections, but it is worth every step for achieving and sustaining a high-performance organization. We have just published a whitepaper on Alignment, which is now available on our website. Please click here to access the full document: Collaborative Alignment: A Transformational Leadership Process. For additional resources on alignment, you may wish to see our blog from last year: Is Your   …Continue Reading


Tips for New Graduates about Leading and Living

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Image: iStock With this cap and gown season upon us, here are some thoughts for new graduates as they transition from school to work or other pursuits. 1. Avoid making choices for the wrong reasons. You are probably under a lot of pressure, both self-imposed and externally thrust upon you. As you look at various work opportunities, even in this challenging job market, consider not only external motivations such as income and status but also internal motivations such as meaning, values, and fulfillment. You will spend lots of time at work, so work hard to find a good fit for you (not for others). 2. There will be a day of reckoning for the choices you make. With time, a job often leads to a series of promotions, or other   …Continue Reading


The Triple Crown Takes Head and Heart

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Teams that win the Triple Crown of Horseracing exhibit more than just technical skill and “head” smarts. They also possess a certain quality of “heart”. Recruiting, developing, and rewarding personnel for head and heart is the first practice of Triple Crown Leadership. Most organizations focus on knowledge, skills, and experience—“head” issues. Triple crown leaders, by contrast, recruit for those plus personal character, emotional intelligence, passion, and “fit” with the organization’s culture—people with both “head” and “heart.” In honor of the possible Triple Crown victory at the Belmont Stakes this year—which would be the first such win in 36 years—we share an encore presentation of some of our prior reflections on the Triple Crown of Horseracing and the parallel value of head and heart in the pursuit of Triple Crown Leadership.   …Continue Reading


Leaders Must Be “Present” with People

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  People won’t follow your leadership if you’re not fully “present” with them. If you are not present with people, you are not connecting with them. Without connections, the leader/follower relationship breaks down and trust is undermined. People feel devalued. You’re sending a signal that they are not important. As a result, they won’t commit to follow you from their hearts because you weren’t engaged with them. But wait, you say, “In this age of high-tech and hyperspeed, I’ve got to multi-task. You don’t understand what I have to juggle: downsized staffs; cut budgets; doing more with less; 24/7 communications and social media; a bulging and relentless email inbox; conference calls across time zones; sleep deprivation; competitive threats; organizational politics; and more. And that’s just at work. Don’t forget my   …Continue Reading


The Triple Crown of Leadership

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  The sports world is abuzz with excitement. We may have our first Triple Crown winner since 1978, when Affirmed captured what has been called “the most elusive championship” in all of sports. California Chrome is poised to accomplish this incredible feat on June 7 if he can win at Belmont Park. This unlikely horse, bred in California for only $10,000 with a 77-year-old trainer, has won his last six races. Since 1875, only eleven thoroughbreds have won the Triple Crown, including such iconic names as War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, Seattle Slew, and of course, perhaps the best of them all, Secretariat. Pictured above, Secretariat won the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, in 1973 by a world-record 31 lengths in a time that has yet to   …Continue Reading


Rationalizations that Derail Leadership

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“The softest pillow is a clear conscience.” Narayana Murthy, Co-founder and former CEO, Infosys   Our ability to rationalize our behavior is astonishing. And dangerous. Basically, we all have a good sense of what’s right or wrong, but we have an inherent ability to talk ourselves into believing that something that’s wrong is really okay. We’re all good at this self-deception, especially when under pressure. Leadership is a moral activity. When done well, it raises people up and brings out their best. Successful ends do not justify unethical means. The journey and the destination must both be based on moral principles if we are to enlist people to follow us willingly from their hearts. Of course we can’t change human nature, and some people are of weak character, easily seduced   …Continue Reading


Leadership in a Horizontal World

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Guest Blog by Charles H. Green   Leadership’s not what it used to be. There used to be leaders, and followers. Leaders were the few, the chosen. They were charismatic, insightful, inspiring. They seemed to be born (and then maybe tuned up), rather than made. High performers were the audience for leadership development programs, which targeted the select, high-potential few. Those few would get promoted into “positions of leadership,” where they were in charge of large groups of resources: both people and financial. And from those positions, they would “lead” the vast number of others, the followers. Of course, it’s not exactly like that now. As Dorothy said to Toto in The Wizard of Oz: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Nowadays, it’s easy to see that the old leadership was   …Continue Reading


Diversity and Cultural Fit

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Some leaders make a case for diversity; others call for “cultural fit,” implying to some that organizations should hire those who are the “same” as those already in the organization. Are these views compatible? Our good friend and leadership colleague, Bob Whipple (a.k.a. The Trust Ambassador), wrote an excellent blog, Challenge “Samers,” from which we excerpt below: I often hear a phrase coming from the lips of hiring managers that makes me cringe. “We want to hire someone who will fit into our group.”  …  I think this is a big mistake. It is often the maverick, or even the outcast among a group of people, who comes up with the genius solutions to problems, or creates entirely new streams of income. When we seek to have everyone “fit in,”   …Continue Reading


Cross-Sector Leaders need to be Triple Crown Leaders

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This guest blog is written by Paul Thallner, an independent leadership and organizational development consultant. Imagine that you are an incredible and gifted athlete, and you become a fantastic baseball player. Then, because you like a challenge, you decide—after a decade of high performance in baseball—to switch to cycling. Think about it: what would you need in order to be effective as a cyclist when you’ve spent all your time playing baseball? In the world of work, transitions like that are happening all the time, and are becoming more common. A September 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “Triple Strength Leadership,” highlighted the growing trend and need for leaders who can “engage and collaborate across the private, public and social sectors.” Authors Matt Thomas and Nick Lovegrove, point to organizations –   …Continue Reading


RIP Great Leader

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iStock Photo “But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.” (From “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman) The Great Leader passed away last week after a long, slow decline.  Countless old colleagues were at his side. In the ensuing days, there was much concern: “With all his faults and flaws, he took care of us, made the tough decisions, and bore a heavy burden of responsibility. What will happen to us now?” The question of the hour became: Who will be the next Great Leader? Squabbles had broken out as people jockeyed to form and join factions. All awaited word about The Great Leader’s Successor. A huge crowd gathered in the stadium for the funeral.   …Continue Reading