Home Leadership Turn Archives Me RampUp Solutions Option Sanity

  • Categories

  • Archives

Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Monday, July 31st, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Heroes. Humanity has always had heroes. While it’s doubtful that will ever change, what constitutes a hero has changed radically over the centuries. I wrote this post in 2009, as the trend of elevating the most inane individuals, and even the dregs of society, to hero/role model status. As the old saying goes, something’s got to give.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Last Friday I wrote Narcissism and Leadership and how much narcissism has increased over the last few years.

I’ve never understood the preoccupation with the glitterati, but I have wondered how much our celebrity-worshiping culture affects kids?

According to Drew Pinsky MD, AKA, Dr. Drew on radio and TV, and S. Mark Young, a social scientist it may be especially dangerous for young people, who view celebrities as role models.

“They are the sponges of our culture. Their values are now being set. Are they really the values we want our young people to be absorbing? … It harkens back to the question of how much are young people affected by models of social learning. Humans are the only animals who learn by watching other humans.”

Worse than dysfunctional celebs is our penchant for making heroes out of the bad guys.

18 year-old, 6-foot-5, 200-pound “Colton Harris-Moore is suspected in about 50 burglary cases since he slipped away from a halfway house in April 2008. Now, authorities say, he may have adopted a more dangerous hobby: stealing airplanes.”

Adin Stevens of Seattle is selling T-shirts celebrating him and there is a fan club on Facebook.

I’m not surprised, in a world where serial killers have groupies and people fight for souvenirs of death-row inmates it figures that they’re going to romanticize someone who manages to not get caught.

But what makes me ill are his mother’s comments, “I hope to hell he stole those airplanes – I would be so proud,” Pam Kohler said, noting her son’s lack of training. “But put in there that I want him to wear a parachute next time.”

It’s tough enough to grow up these days; it’s tougher in a dysfunctional home or in areas that are gang-controlled, but what kid stands a chance with parents like this?

What can we do? Where can we find more positive role models that have the glamour that mesmerizes kids and grownups alike?

When will we glorify function instead of dysfunction? Meaning instead of money?

Image credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on flickr

Join me tomorrow for Wally Bock’s take on heroes and how they need to change.

Role Model: Craig Zoberis and Fusion OEM

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017


In 1914 Henry Ford doubled his workers’ daily wage, much to the consternation of other magnates, who believed, as do most of them today, that success comes from paying as little as possible.

Ford, however, believed that he would benefit if his workers had disposable income and he was correct; they used the extra money to buy Fords.

The same holds true today; modern research has proved that higher wages increase profits.

Businesses, from very large to very small, still don’t believe it and scream at the thought of a so-called living wage.

But not all of them.

Fusion OEM at just $12 million is considered very small, but it’s profitable and founder Craig Zoberis is very happy, because he is meeting his twin goals.

While lots of other manufacturers have moved operations to China or Mexico, Zoberis has kept his plant in the United States – and considers it a point of pride to pay his 55 workers above-market rates. Workers with no experience start at $14-an-hour, he says, and by completing training and gaining skills can reach $18-to-20-an-hour, plus overtime and bonuses, for total pay near $50,000 a year, within a few years.

Zoberis doesn’t expect his people to buy his products, but he did want to have a  place to work that matched his MAP and not his father’s.

My father and his partner never did a good job of hiring the right people with the right attitude. I wanted to be excited to go to work every day, and working for my father’s company, I was not.

Fusion OEM has never had a layoff, but finding great workers in its industry is just as difficult as finding great programmers, hence the need for a creative, long-term solution.

My colleagues were always complaining that there aren’t enough skilled workers who have the right attitude. When I talk about skilled workers I’m talking about machinists (…) What we discovered halfway through our life at Fusion is that we couldn’t always look outside for skilled people. We decided to hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

Fusion OEM is enjoying double digit growth, but Zoberis isn’t interested in taking outside investment. He loves going to work, saying, “This is my hobby, my income, my life,” and knows that hyper growth can kill you.

You can’t grow your company any faster than you can get the right people. If it goes too far, you might go beyond your capabilities and you’ll fail.

The interview is well worth reading, especially their approach to hiring and compensation.

I rarely make predictions, but in this case I feel pretty safe making two.

  1. Zoberis will continue building his company, growing his own people and being a management outlier.
  2. Most companies of whatever size will continue to treat people as disposable, pay them as little as possible and bitch about them to whomever will listen.

Image credit: Fusion OEM

If the Shoe Fits: Talent — Expendable or Dependable

Friday, April 15th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIt’s a short post today, because there are a number of links well worth reading.

Way back in 2008 I wrote It’s the People, Stupid, about the value of taking care of your people, as exemplified by Zappos, Costco and Trader Joe’s.

I’ve written many posts citing Walmart’s chew-them-up/spit-them-out lack of care and how banks, Yelp, HubSpot and Nest, among others, are following the Walmart model.

Dan Lyons, who spent two years at HubSpot, has written a book about his experiences called “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.”

You can get a sense of how HubSpot chews and spits from his opinion piece in the NY Times.

The upshot of all this is that you, as a founder, have a choice as to which model you’ll emulate.

Walmart or Zappos.

Just understand that you can’t switch from one to the other based on the employment market or your mood.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Gen. George S. Patton On Leadership

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016


Gen. George S. Patton, who commanded the US’s 7th Army in Europe and the Mediterranean during World War II, is one of the most loved and respected soldiers in US history.

Patton was tough, irascible, inspiring and considered a guru on the subject of leadership.

After reading a list of brilliant, succinct, one-liners on leadership, taken from the 1995 book “Patton’s One-Minute Messages” by Charles M. Province, I picked seven to share, with appropriate (if sometimes irreverent) commentary.

“No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.” Even if it’s a Herman Miller design, so get up, get out and walk around.

  • “Do everything you ask of those you command.” Especially since no boss does a lot of commanding these days.
  • “No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.” The only thing that may benefit from hiring yes-people is your ego and that’s only in the very short-term.
  • “Never make a decision too early or too late.” That said, worst of all is no decision at all.
  • “Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.” Now learn to admit it.
  • “Success is how you bounce on the bottom.” I can personally swear to the accuracy of this having bounced several times in my life.
  • “Any man who thinks he’s indispensable, ain’t.” This is my all-time favorite. It’s similar to one my first boss used when a team member got a little too cocky, “Nobody can be duplicated, but anybody can be replaced.”

You can learn a lot from Patton as long as you remember that he was a great leader not because of his skill for soundbites, but because he always walked his talk.

Image credit: National Archives

Ducks in a Row: a Different Role Model

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015


Good bosses work hard to provide a positive culture where their people can learn, grow, make a difference and build a career to be proud of.

Most cast a wide net to find role models and use what they learn to improve their organization.

Sports has provided many of these role models, but most are the tough-talking, in-your-face style that many managers and most workers don’t like.

But Pete Carroll, Coach of the Seattle Seahawks, takes a different approach.

“Football has an old-school mentality: We’re going to grind you into the ground, we’re going to make men out of boys, and when you do something bad, we’re going to demean you. But here, they feel like you guys are already men and we’re going to treat you like men. It’s literally all positive reinforcement.” — Jimmy Graham, all-star tight end

And it’s not a when-times-are-good attitude that falls by the wayside when adversity hits — as it always will.

Even the intercepted pass that cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl last year didn’t rattle or change Carroll’s approach.

In his five years leading the Seahawks, he has made a mark not just by winning games but by reshaping the role of N.F.L. coach. Carroll, 63, has embraced diversity, encouraged free expression, promoted self-discovery and remained relentlessly positive.

Just think what your team could accomplish if you choose to emulate Carroll, instead of the more typical coaches.

Flickr image credit: Mark Lee

Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, March 23rd, 2015


Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Entrepreneurs: Another Myth-Killing Role Model

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


Myth: innovation is the province of the young.

Myth: old companies don’t innovate.

Myth: successful startups IPO.

Myth: billionaire founders live loud.

Oops. Chester Pipkin, founder, chief executive and chairman of Belkin International, blows up all these myths.

Pipkin started his company in the 1980s in his parents garage and the innovation has never stopped — from the earliest days of computing to today’s Internet of things and on to tomorrow.

The company capitalized on the early explosion in personal computing, selling devices that connected computers to printers. Through the years the company has kept pace if not stayed ahead of the changing tech landscape. In 2014, Fast Co. named Belkin one of the 10 most innovative companies specializing in the “Internet of things” thanks to its Wemo line of Internet-connected home accessories.

Belkin is still private, has 1300 employees, a billion in sales and Pipkin keeps a very low profile.

He’s low on ego and high on hands-on philanthropy, as opposed to just writing checks.

Definitely a role model for all times.

Image credit: Belkin

If the Shoe Fits: Is Airbnb a Good Corporate Role Model?

Friday, July 18th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mFrom Napster to Uber and Airbnb, I’ve never been partial to startups whose success was based on cheating, AKA, breaking laws.

And the explanation that the law(s) are outmoded, even if true, doesn’t change my opinion.

Airbnb just introduced a new logo that was jumped on in the Twitterscape for its blatant sexual innuendo.

But that pales in comparison to its apparent theft.

 Airbnb’s new logo is an exact copy of the Automation Anywhere logo, as Jay Yarow pointed out on Twitter


Automation Anywhere started life as Tethys Solutions, LLC in 2003 and rebranded as Automation Anywhere in 2012.

Perhaps Airbnb sees appropriating a logo in the same light as moving into a community and ignoring its laws.

It should be interesting.

And with a client list that includes Cisco, Harley, MasterCard, Coach, Boeing, Oracle, Intel, Virgin and dozens of others, I doubt Automation Anywhere is going to roll over any time soon.

Image credit: HikingArtist

85 Individuals vs. 3.5 Billion People

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014


There’s been a social media firestorm since Tom Perkins had his say in defense of the so-called 1%.

I asked a retired serial entrepreneur who was funded by KPCB decades ago when the names on the door were actually working partners what he thought.

Tom was reasonably liberal when he was running KP. Many VC’s who had made tons of dough became very conservative as they aged, supporting right wing Republican and Libertarian causes. They seemed to regard it as an insult that the government was trying to take even a tiny smidgeon of their billions in taxes.

I get why Perkins comments incited so much noise, both sincere and politically correct, but the real story a few days earlier didn’t get the play it deserved.

Here’s the headline that should have gotten more attention.

World’s richest 85 people have as much as bottom half the population

This means the world’s poorest 3,550,000,000 (3.55 billion) people must live on what the richest 85 possess.

The statistics are from non-profit Oxfam and are neither political nor partisan—they just are.

Nor are they an indictment of the US, since they are global.

In line with the mantra of “think globally, act locally” what can you do to help change this?

KG Charles-Harris says,

“It’s really action in the little ways that makes a difference.  Not everyone has to do big things, but small things are possible every day with little cost.”

Here are some ideas,

  1. Choose your role models more carefully; Richard Branson, Bill Gates and, more recently Mark Zukerberg are all in the 85%, but they model their lives very differently from Larry Ellison or the Koch Brothers.
  2. Commit to giving one week’s worth of what you normally spend on coffee to a cause you care about.
  3. Do the same with the time you save.

I’ll end by borrowing a line from a 1971 Alka-Seltzer® ad, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

Flickr image credit: playerx

If the Shoe Fits: The Myth of Meritocracy

Friday, August 30th, 2013

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThose who like to believe that tech is a utopian-like meritocracy need to wake up to reality.

Silicon Valley is indeed a meritocracy for those to whom these criteria are not hurdles. But others—the blacks, women, and Hispanics whom it overlooks—find it an elite private club from which they are excluded. — Vivek Wadhwa (see the entire article series here)

According to Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus and (for those of you who are too young to remember) sold it to IBM in 1995 for $3.5 billion, the idea that all it takes is hard work and a god product to be a success in the Valley is pure fantasy.

“There’s an admirable belief about the virtues of meritocracy – that the best ideas prove the best results. It’s a wrong and misguided belief by well-intentioned people.”

The idea that merit matters goes further down the drain when you see comments, such as the most recent one from Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame.

One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent. I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and can’t if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent. I just know it’s a strong pattern we’ve seen.

Or this comment.

I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon…Whereas when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with.

Kapor now runs Kapor Capital, a for-profit venture firm focused on funding minorities whose ideas are focused on improving opportunities for the poor through education, sees the world very differently.

“We have a responsibility to give people opportunities to do what they can do. It’s a fundamental tenet of democratic society. Libertarians who believe in a completely minimalist state, and don’t feel we have that responsibility, are harming humanity.”

Choosing a role model is a private decision. 

Who will you channel? Mitch Kapor or Paul Graham?

Image credit: HikingArtist

RSS2 Subscribe to
MAPping Company Success

Enter your Email
Powered by FeedBlitz

About Miki View Miki Saxon's profile on LinkedIn

About Ryan ryanrpew

About Marc marc-dorneles-cpcu-b8b43425

About KG View KG Charles-Harris' profile on LinkedIn

About Ajo View Ajo Fod's profile on LinkedIn

Clarify your exec summary, website, marketing collateral, etc.

Have a question or just want to chat @ no cost? Feel free to write or call me at 360.335.8054

Download useful assistance now.

Entrepreneurs face difficulties that are hard for most people to imagine, let alone understand. You can find anonymous help and connections that do understand at 7 cups of tea.

Give your mind a rest. Here are 2 quick ways to get rid of kinks, break a logjam or juice your creativity!

Crises never end.
$10 really does make a difference and you'll never miss it,
while $10 a month has exponential power.
Always donate what you can whenever you can.

The following accept cash and in-kind donations:

Web site development: NTR Lab
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.