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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №1 - 2006

Автор: Фергюсон Ч.

Where, oh where, are the leaders?

Managers? We’ve got a million of them. Baseball managers. Floor managers. Crisis managers. Business and management classes. Ask Warren Bennis, who once taught at the University of Southern California: “America and its business community,” Bennis said, “have been managed to the point of ruin.”

Managers? Managers we’ve got. We’re surrounded. But leaders? “We’re in desperate need of leaders,” Bennis said. “Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to find men and women of vision who are willing to stand on principle and make their voices heard.”

“One has to wonder, where have all the leaders gone?” Where are the leaders? No one seems to know. Read the headlines. Listen to the news. While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush campaigned on the theme, “It is a time for new beginnings and new leadership.”

Many commentators have recognized the value of leadership. Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the Times, argues that the Palestinians need their own state “and a new leadership.” An editorial board insists that only “new leadership” will succeed in getting a Patients’ Bill of Rights through Congress. And as I write this, lawmakers in Washington are thrilled about new leadership at the SEC.

Have you ever heard a politician say, “We need a new kind of management in Washington, D.C.”? Not even Ross Perot tried to run on that platform. No, leaders and leadership are what’s missing in your local school district. In the circles of local government. In the church and synagogue. In the business community. In the world of the nonprofits.

Especially, in the business community. It’s difficult to exaggerate the devastating impact – not only on Wall Street, but on the street where you live – of the collapse of such companies as Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, and MCI-WorldCom.

The courts are still trying to calculate the depth and breadth of the fraud these companies perpetuated on the financial markets. In June 2002, officials at MCI-WorldCom admitted the company had hidden almost $4 billion in costs, which prompted the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. In a civil lawsuit, the Securities and Exchange Commission said that an accounting scheme “directed and approved by WorldCom’s senior management” allowed MCI-WorldCom to fraudulently report 2001 cash flow of $2.4 billion, rather than its actual loss of $662 million.

MCI-WorldCom’s accounting firm was Arthur Andersen. That firm also did the math for Enron, collecting $25 million in auditing fees and $27 million in consulting fees in 2001. That was enough, apparently, to look the other way while Enron phoned up its balance sheets.

Then there’s Global Crossing. The telecommunications giant made Garry Winnick, the man who launched the firm, a $6 billion man. While the boom was on, the company grew from five employees to a telecom giant of ten thousand…but when the bubble burst, many of those employees were given three days’ notice that their health benefits were being cut off. They were denied severance play. Many had to sell their homes. Their pension funds, a product of their faith and trust in the company for which they worked, were ruined.

Gary Winnick was not similarly distressed. Even as Global Crossing rolled towards bankruptcy court, Winnick was making plans to construct his personal dream house costing $94 million.

Where are the leaders? Do you think they are ensconced in $94 million mansions? Are they driven by the “values of leadership?” In the debate over leadership, people like Garry Winnick are part of the problem. If you’ll read on, we can start moving toward the solution.

General H. Normal Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” Agreed. But let's talk a little strategy. I can't sum up leadership in five words or less. Leadership is about a lot of things. But when we survey the arrogant wreckage of these corporate giants, I hope we can agree on this: In its simplest and most powerful form, leadership is about people and the intimate, intricate relationships between them. It's about core values. And it's about being connected, for the benefit of all, in a community.

Far too many of us have grown up thinking leadership involves a position. It's not about position. A title doesn't make you a leader. I know you've heard people say, "I love my job, but I can't stand the person I work for." Why? Because position or titles do not automatically inspire leadership. Position is vague and external. And leadership, I've come to believe, is personal and internal. It has its roots deep inside each one of us.

I've come quite a ways, I might add. For me, leadership has been a journey. I haven't reached this point armed with— or guided by—clichés and anecdotes. Yes, there are people, wonderful books, and experiences that have shaped my life. I'm still benefiting from the counsel and the experience of friends. But there is no simple answer to our questions about the nature of leadership. I don't have a toolbox or a quick ten-step seminar. I'm not a quote machine. And I'm still learning, each and every day, from my mistakes and from the wonderful people that cross my path.

During the first thirty years, I toiled in the business and nonprofit world. I was heavy handed. Very top down. I drove to the top because I believed leadership resided at the top. I flat walked over people. A good friend of mine named Jim Lussier once told me, "When I was a little kid, I hated bullies. Then I became one. That's how I ran the hospital. I pushed and pushed." Let me tell you: I recognized my reflection in the mirror he held up.

There is a time in each of our lives when we have to make a decision about leadership. For many of us, it's a conversion experience. We were something... and then we learned that leadership is something quite different than what we had imagined or experienced. The quest to understand just how different is an inside-out journey. And at a crucial juncture in that journey we discover that leadership is not so much about what we do.

It's about who we are. That can be a painful revelation. Few of us like to inquire within. We're a little edgy about probing deep inside. We're a tad nervous about confronting the character we bring to moments of great crisis and utter loneliness. But that's what we need to do if we want to tap our capacity for leadership.

That's where greatness resides. That's where leadership begins. On the inside. That's where the passion is. That's what you uncover when you're finally ready to dig down deep.

A friend of mine was relaxing on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, several years ago during his lunch hour, enjoying the fresh air. That's when he noticed a little girl walking toward him, trailing her mother. She had both hands wrapped around a paper cone capped by a great pink stack of cotton candy. She couldn't have been much more than eight or nine years old. As she passed by, my friend leaned down and said to her, "Little girl, how can someone as tiny as you eat all that cotton candy?"

Without missing a step, the little girl looked up at him and said, "Mister, I'm a whole lot bigger on the inside than I am on the outside." You want a definition for leadership? Well, let's start right there: Leadership is about being a whole lot bigger on the inside than we are on the outside.

Inside, after all, is where we store our core values. Inside is where we maintain our dignity, where we harbor our capacity for compassion. Inside is the good earth in which everything we show to the outside world has taken root.

And what's inside drives my behavior. Crafts my thought life. Shapes my words. Defines my relationships. Determines how I value myself and others. And influences my decisions.

Don't assume that what's inside is transparent and accessible to those on the outside. Michelangelo once said that the perfect form lies concealed in the block of stone; all that is necessary is to chip away until it's revealed. That's a great insight. Get those rock hammers ready.

And don't forget that the delicate fabric between what exists on the inside and what we confront on the outside can be very thin. I don't think you can work for a company if its core values don't line up with your core values. You can't lead a company—or be led by one—that doesn't believe the same things you do.

In all likelihood, you spend more time at work than you do with your family or curled up in bed. I don't want to suggest that your job is where the best and worst parts of you are on display. But given the time you invest in work, shouldn't your job be the place where you’re entire personality—and every part of you—is welcome?

Shortly after Henry Ford created the first assembly line for Ford Motor Company, I understand he looked out over the shop floor and said, "Why do I get the whole person when all I want to hire is a pair of hands?" Maybe because they're attached, Henry! In the twenty-first century, you can't hire a simple pair of hands. You hire "whole" people, and they bring it all to work.

When I turned sixteen, I got my first job. I was hired at a place called Yaw's Top Notch on the east side of Portland. We used to hang out at the drive-in after school, and I got to know the manager. On my first day of work, an afternoon shift, the manager said, "Chuck, two things to get you started. First, we're thrilled you're here. Second, leave your private life out in the parking lot. When you come to work, you're on our time, not your time."

You cannot say that to people today. "Leave your private life in the parking lot." That's not possible.

Not long ago, I was called into a doctor's office after a routine colonoscopy. This tough and exceedingly kind man said to me, "Chuck, your colonoscopy is showing a tumor that is full of cancer."

If you've ever heard that kind of diagnosis, I'm sure you know how hard that hit me. I was staggered. Almost everything in my life changed. Drastically. Immediately. Without wasting any time, I had to go in for cancer surgery on my colon. I don't think I need to tell you that tumor was on my mind in the weeks leading up to the surgery. No one could ask me to leave that cancer in the parking lot.

When one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, when both parents are working and leaving the latchkey out for the kids coming home from school, when the economy is down and drug use is up, you can't ask your employees to check their private life at the door.

A leader has no choice but to see the whole person. "All politics," U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon once said to me," are relational. And that is also the heart of leadership." Deep, vital relationships aren't possible unless you're willing to deal with the whole person, in the context of the core values that you share. Those core values create the culture of your business, and that culture is what people remember.

How I wish our average board of directors took more seriously the responsibility to defend those values and that culture. Down at the corner grocery store or the local dry cleaner, business is utterly dependent on the connection you make with the customer across the counter. But in large, complex organizations—companies that show a hundred different faces to the public—the directors are the face of an organization and its conscience. They are the gatekeepers of a company's mission and its vision.

Just as leaders need to grapple with the whole person, boards are responsible for maintaining healthy relationships inside the entire organization... and responsible for the core values that connect a company to the world outside its walls. They have the standing, if I may borrow that legal term, to both challenge and encourage the salesmen and the CEOs. And you better believe that the fate of the companies I talked about in the opening chapter would have been markedly different if a few more directors had stood tall instead of ducking out of the way.

We are shielded by what we show on the outside and motivated by who we are on the inside. I encourage you to commit yourself to making your hidden beliefs obvious. You must first become the leader that you yearn to see in the people around you.

My favorite quote about leadership comes courtesy of a gentleman—an absolute gentleman—named Max DePree. Max is the former CEO and chairman of the Herman Miller Company, a second- or third-generation Fortune 100 company that builds some of the finest office furniture in the world. This is what Max had to say about leadership in a book entitled Leadership Is an Art: The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant...

There are three parts to Max's quote: defining reality, saying thank you, becoming a servant. I'd describe each of them, one at a time, if all three weren't embodied in the story of a man named Jim Lussier.

I first met Jim on the cover of Oregon Business magazine. In the summer of 1998, this fifty-something guy in a blue blazer with curly salt-and-pepper hair popped up on the magazine cover beside the words "Say Goodbye to the S.O.B." Below that banner was a small explanatory deck: "When old-style management doesn't work."

Lussier was the CEO of St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. I was so impressed with his story that I wrote him a note. Within a week, I was driving over to Central Oregon to see him and to speak with him about his leadership journey. Lussier was ex-military with an MBA. For twenty-two years, he ran his hospital like he once ran his unit: command and control. When Jim said "Jump," his fifty-two managers jumped higher than he asked them to because that's how you got promoted at St. Charles. That's how you got more money. You jumped. You lunged at the carrot.

The organizational charters at St. Charles were pretty clear: Jim was the commander in chief. He was comfortable with the bureaucracy he had inherited. It was reasonably successful. It was traditional, always focused on the bottom line. It was authoritarian, and he was the authority.

Back in 1992, Jim picked up several books on leadership. Now, that started a transformation in his thinking that could have been trouble. Jim Lussier, in other words, could have easily picked up a book that celebrated his macho, authoritarian, I-am-the-biggest-SOB-in-the-valley instincts. Fortunately, he didn't. Instead, he started attending conferences on leadership, and he heard people like me suggest that leadership, might have a lot less to do with telling people to jump and a lot more to do with lifting them up.

So it came to pass that Jim walked into St. Charles one morning and took a long look at the 1,100 people who, by and large, had worked for him for the last twenty-two years. Standing there at the front doors of the hospital, Jim decided that he worked for 1,100 people. They didn't work for him. They didn't have one pain-in-the-neck boss. He had 1,100 bosses.

The first definition of a leader is to define reality. If you're a manager, you're under the impression that people work for you. If you're a leader, you work for them... because you're there to help make them successful.

Lussier gathered his team around him. He tried to explain the transformation in his thinking. He probably told his management team what he told the writer for Oregon Business, that the hospital needed to focus on the patient as a customer.

As he said in the magazine, "Would you go into Nordstrom if the first thing they did was stick you in a waiting room and say, Til be back in an hour'?" His managers thought he was going through a midlife crisis. They thought he'd gone wacko. Do you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to collect the 1,100 name tags people in the hospital wore and remove the titles. No more "CEO." No more "Head Surgeon, Neurology." No more "Lead RN, Pediatrics."

Just their names. What description was supposed to go under the name? Well, Jim asked, what business are we in? Are we in the business of being "head surgeons"? Are we in the business of being the CEO? No? Well, what is our business? Caregiving. That's what they finally figured out. And that's why if you show up at St. Charles tomorrow, you'll meet Jim Lussier or Suzie Smith or Jim Johnson, and their name tags all announce the same thing: "Caregiver." The folks who sweep the floors and mop up ER? Caregiver. The people answering 911? Caregiver.

The janitors? You know, there's a wonderful quote from Royal Alcott: "Leadership," he insists, "is the initiation and direction of endeavor in the pursuit of consequence. Anything else is criticism from janitors." But at St. Charles, janitors—critical and otherwise—have a part to play in the hospital's mission. They may be behind the curtains rather than at the front of the stage, but the title on their name tag is just the same as the pediatric cardiologists: Caregiver.

Why? Because the reality of St. Charles, Jim Lussier decided, is that those name tags shouldn't assert your status but define your service.

Jim's next decision was that the hospital staff needed to begin listening to patients and their families. This is, generally, anathema to the medical community. Doctors don't make a habit of listening to patients. They are used to dictating to patients and—let's be honest— ordering them around. When a doctor asks how you're feeling, look out: He's warming up to tell you just how wrong you are.

Jim Lussier had a better idea. You know what the staff at St. Charles found out when they began listening to their patients? First off, they discovered that the patients hated those nightgowns you have to wear. That's why they're no longer the standard uniform at the St. Charles. Since Jim Lussier decided to shake up the place, St. Charles has allowed patients to wear whatever they want. Nighties, pajamas, a running suit: If you bring it, you can wear it.

Why? Because it's about the patient at St. Charles, not about some tired, irrelevant habits. Leadership demands that you listen to the people who drive your business. You don't tell your customers what to wear when they're facing a traumatic, unpredictable experience in your hospital. You listen carefully as your customers tell you what makes them comfortable. You remain still while they explain their needs.

You also listen to what they have to tell you about the food. When I saw the dining room at St. Charles, it had plush carpet, fresh flowers on the tables, and beautiful music on the sound system. I also noticed a box of Kleenex on every table.

Now, I’ve been in quite a few hospital dining rooms. I think this is the first one that didn’t smother my appetite the second I walked through the door. There wasn’t a linoleum floor, nor a small armada of those gagging Styrofoam cups. When I went looking for a cup, all I could find was a china mug and a giant pot of Starbucks. And, when I put my $1.50 on the counter, the lady behind the register said, “Sir, while you’re in our hospital, you are our guest. Coffee, tea, and iced tea are all a gift from us to you.”

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. Do I need to explain the Kleenex box on every table? Do you know how the hospital figured that out? They listened to their customers, their patients, and the families of their patients.

Management rarely does that. Managers are convinced they have all the answers. Leaders, on the other hand, have the right amount of humility. Leaders have a proper sense of empathy. Leaders have figured out that between defining reality and saying thank you, their job is to be servants to the people who come to them and help them design their business.

Are you looking for guidelines on being a servant first? I think Robert Greenleaf got us started when he said the following: The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those who I serve grow as persons; do they while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, and more autonomous, more likely themselves become servants?

Put yourself to the test. Do those I serve grow as people? Do they become healthier, wiser, freer…and more empowered?

Do I create a safe place for those who work with me?

Do I understand what makes people who they are and how they think and react in different situations? Knowing a soft answer turns away wrath, do I take the time to listen?

Do I throw light or cast a shadow?

Do my words match up with my touch? Do the people I serve trust that I believe in them… and believe that I trust them?

Do I let other people take the credit and receive the prize?

Do I keep promises?

And do I offer forgiveness when mistakes are made, or do I hold people hostage?

I have a wonderful friend named Bob Farrell, who started Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours. I once asked Bob to define leadership for me. His comeback was stark and unforgettable: “Take care of your people,” he said. “Take care of your customers.”

Bob once commissioned a customer service survey in which he discovered that 68 percent of the customers who decide not to frequent a business don’t return because they dislike the attitude of indifference in the staff.

People recognize, relate to, and respond to the values of a company. They are attracted by them or repelled by them. And that’s where leadership comes in. Management focuses on accomplishing a task. Leadership is about building the human side of organizations.

You want a definition for leadership? We might as well end there. Sister Catherine, the last surviving nun from the group that founded St. Charles Medical center, said this to me about Jim Lussier: “He is a leader who is not concerned about how many followers he has. He is a leader who creates leaders.”

If you truly want to lead – you are in the business of lifting spirits and touching lives.

Each time you put your hands to the good work, you redefine reality. You say thank you. You become a servant. And one thing more: You put your vision for leadership into the hands of someone else and send them off to serve in the worlds beyond your reach.


1. Bennis, Warren. Managing People Is Like Herding Cats (Executive Excellence, 1997).

2. DePree, Max. Leadership is an Art (Currency, 1989.)

3. Greenleaf, Robert. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Paulist Press, 2002).

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