Jimmy V

The speech given by Jim Valvano, famous basketball coach who passed away early from cancer, was so powerful and gave insight into the mind of a born leader. He knew he did not have much time to live, but you wouldn’t know it if you had never met him or heard about him. His reaction towards his cancer diagnosis was one that all leaders should take note of. No matter how bad circumstances become, how you react determines your character. When leaders are faced with tough situations, they need to embrace them, not shy away from them. How one in charge reacts determines how his followers will react. In this case, Jimmy used his diagnosis to appreciate and see all the wonderful aspects of life, not to pout and feel sorry for himself.

Valvano also took initiative when he found out about his condition. He created the Jimmy V Cancer Foundation to raise money for cancer research. Great leaders can use negative circumstances to create positive ones for others. Jimmy knew how many lives are lost to cancer, and he knew he wanted to do something about it. He could have sat back, and pouted and not tried to make a positive impact. However, he did something that could save many lives one day, and may have already. The leadership lesson here is to care for your followers, or those that you could impact. Even in dark times, do something to create a glimmer of light for someone else.

Jimmy used his cancer diagnosis as a way to love more and try to create better days for all those in his situation. I invite you to watch the link to the video below, and watch how he doesn’t let his condition slow him down!


Undercover Boss (Hooters)

After watching the Undercover Boss episodes Dr. Feinberg presented to us, I was intrigued by the show and how much it had to offer about leadership. I wanted to continue to explore, and tried to find an episode that had a lot to offer. Hooters seemed to be a great choice. The restaurant has been the subject of a lot of controversy, due to some peoples’ thoughts on how it portrays women. As seen in the episode, many people feel the company exploits women with their looks and tight outfits. Also, with the restaurant only having female servers, the way men and women will manage their employees will be different, and this is seen in the episode.

Coby Brooks, the CEO of Hooters, went undercover to find out more about his company. He knew that once his father, who was the owner before, passed away, that morale began to change within the company. His dad often made trips to the Hooters plant, and got to know many employees. However, Coby went the opposite way, and never took the time to familiarize himself with his workers. And he realized this along with the company image was holding the business back. So as all good leaders do, Coby listened to customer opinions, and made proper changes. In response to all the outcry from people about the way women are presented by Hooters, Coby assigned two Hooters girls to a PR company to show the world what their servers were all about. He wanted to show his girls that he viewed them in a much different light than many in the public, and also wanted to show the public the true feelings the company had for these girls. This is one of the many steps Brooks took to better his company.

Another reason Coby went undercover was to see how managers were running the franchises. He realized that the way one man was treating his servers, compared to how one female treated her servers was completely different. The male did not respect the girls working there. He called them prima donnas and made them eat beans without their hands to see which server went home first. On the opposite side, the female manager listened to all her servers and treated them with the utmost respect. She valued opinions and constantly helped them out. So again, Coby took charge and made changes. He sat the male manager down, and told him his actions were inappropriate and demeaning. He got his message across because the male manager made a formal apology to his staff and changed his leadership style up. Then Coby realized he also needed to change the way he was going about his business.

Brooks listened to workers at the plant, and got a good dose of reality. One worker said many workers did not want to work for the company anymore, and many were angry at management. Coby knew how important morale was to the company, as it was always high when his father owned it. So he made a promise to the manager at the plant that he would start visiting more often, and getting to know more of his workers on a personal level. 

All these changes that Coby made were very positive for the company. He did what he needed to do to make changes, and also accepted responsibility and realized his shortcomings in running the company. Many lessons can be learned from these videos, and I encourage more people to check them out. Watch for yourself below!

TED TALKS: Why we do what we do

I recently watched a great seminar by Tony Robbins that explored why people act the way they do. Many points were found that pertained to leadership today. Tony talks about the three questions we ask ourselves when making a decision. They are what am I going to focus on?, what does it mean?, and what are you going to do?. He also talks about the two “invisible forces” that go into our decision making. These include the “in the moment” force which focuses on your current state of mind, and also the “long-term” force that focuses on your model of the world and how it shapes your emotions, meaning, and actions. This is crucial to the decision-making process for leaders. Every leader needs to step back, ask these questions, and figure out why it is they are doing this. And then decide if this is the right decision. Does it help out your followers? Are you in a different mind state than usual? How do your perception of the world play into this. This is critical because good leaders need to take these questions into consideration, while keeping followers in mind. Everyone has different beliefs and motives, and leaders need to find a way to realize those and make decisions that benefit the group.

Robbins also mentions the six needs that every human has. They are certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection, growth, and contributing beyond ourselves. Now, he states the first four will be met by all humans no matter what. However, he says that not everyone reaches the fifth and sixth needs. In order to be a successful leader, it is necessary to experience all needs. However, to do this, one must understand his followers and what they are striving for. Some might have certainty as their top need, some might have significance. It comes down to getting to know your followers and understanding how they act. Only then can the group reach those last two needs that are hardest to come by. All in all, a good leader not only recognizes their emotions and desires, but understands the needs and motives of his or her followers.

Below is a link to the talk.

Greg Smith and Goldman Sachs

Recently, I came across an article by Chris MacDonald that analyzed a resignation letter written by a longtime Goldman Sachs employee, Greg Smith. There were many interesting aspects of this article that pertained to leadership. Greg had worked at Goldman for almost 12 years, and had quite a great amount of success. However, as the years went by, he started seeing a changing culture in his company that he did not approve of. 

Smith was a recruiter and mentor for the company. He put applicants through interviews and helped mentor those hired. He said that he knew it was time for him to go when he “could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.” This is quite a bold statement coming from an employee with years of experience and success with one of the most influential investment banks in the world. So what is it about the changes in culture that made him leave? Let’s look in more detail.

When Smith started, he felt he was in a place of teamwork and looking out for clients. The company had many great years and many people coming back to them. However, Greg said that eventually thoughts about leadership changed for the worse. Instead of focusing on clients, the firm was only in it for the profits. He would attend sales meetings where “not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help customers.” Also, he said that in a years time, he heard five different directors at the firm use words such as “muppets” to describe their clients. That’s not exactly my definition of a perfect company culture.

Poor leadership again contributed to many problems within Goldman Sachs. Upper level management trained employees to focus on profits, not customers. Good leaders look out for their followers. They help them achieve goals. They listen to their requests. They keep their interests in mind at all times. They absolutely do not ignore them for hopes of only their sole benefit. On the positive side, it was nice to see Greg step up and take leadership. He was making a lot of money and had great success with the company, but it was changing for the worse. He led by showing that the only way to achieve success was by satisfying client needs’ and always keeping their interests in mind. That’s what a company should strive for culture-wise.

I understand this is coming from just one employee in the company. But what he is saying and claiming still needs to be taken into consideration. If these things weren’t going on, why would Greg leave a company that he had great success at? The full letter can be read on the following link from a NY Times article.


Kirk Weisler

I had the great opportunity to hear Kirk speak this past week at a leadership conference for CSR 309. The insight he brought was great and informative, and I want to share some of my favorite points from his presentation.

1. “Time is the most important currency.” Weisler shared how valuable time was to him. Time is money, and how you spend it will determine how you turn out. Are you wasting it, or taking the time to learn?

2. You determine how you behave, but you must be committed to the foundation of rules that you set. Say what you believe in, and then follow through.

3. Life will provide you with opportunities to have stories, but how we act will determine how our stories end.

4. “We become the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with’ Loved this quote! Are the people you are hanging out with bringing out the best in you? Or are they holding you back?

5. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Another awesome thought! Once you have the desire to learn, those that see that desire will want to help you achieve that goal. But it starts with you!

6. The best students never stop learning. They don’t get by just to get by. They take the time to learn new things each day. Learning is something that should never stop.

7. Act the way you want to be, and eventually you will become that way. If you want to be successful, display behavior that will lead you there.

8. Looking at your notes everyday will help you retain a lot more information. So take advantage of your enhanced ability to learn and grow!

9. Don’t be afraid just because people are afraid to see you succeed. Welcome it and thrive off of it. Don’t let others determine your success.

10. Carry a leadership journal around, and see how much you grow as a leader. It will surprise you.

These were the top 10 things I took away from the conference, although I learned a lot more. Thanks to Dr. Feinberg for giving us this great opportunity. Also, thanks for live tweeting the conference. It was nice to follow along and listen to another person’s thoughts, and also to be able to go back and review those thoughts.

Michael Sam

Weeks ago, news came out that shocked the football world, and the country. Michael Sam, an NFL hopeful, announced that he was gay. He became the first possible openly gay player in the NFL. Speculation began to creep up about whether or not players in the NFL would be ok with having a gay teammate. I want to point out why Michael Sam was a terrific leader in the situation.

Good leaders do what is right, which may not always be the easy thing to do. They can face backlash and criticism. However, Michael worked up the courage to let everyone know he was gay. He did this just months before the NFL draft. He came out when the responses to his announcement could’ve ruined his chance to play in the NFL. He did this because he is not scared of who he is. Great leaders acknowledge who they are, and don’t try to hide it. Instead they thrive off of it.

Not many people would do what Sam did. His leadership and lack of fear could lead to the floodgates opening in the future. Maybe now, more gay players will come forward and join Michael in being openly gay. This monumental decision that was made could lead to opportunities for others, which is exactly what a leader does. He takes the fear out of the followers and leads by example. Michael Sam’s announcement has lead to some skepticism by some current NFL players, but instead of hiding who he is, he came out and made a decision that only great leaders would make.

Barton Watson

Recently, in Business Ethics class, we watched a video on the rise and fall of Barton Watson, founder of CyberNET Engineering. I found a lot of interesting points in the film that dealt with leadership, or lack there of. Now Barton became very rich very quickly. He resold Compaq computers and helped with installation for customers. Although his intentions seemed good on the outside, what was actually going on inside the company was very troubling. Barton began taking loans based off of forged financial statements, which lead to obtaining luxury cars, houses, etc. This lead to FBI investigations, and the eventual arrest of Watson. The actual story itself is not what I want to get across. My point is that there was a flawed sense of leadership that lead to this outcome.

Barton, from the start, could care less about his employees and how they would be affected by his actions. He completely ostracized his followers. Many employees complained about him hiding information from them, and not giving them the time of day to talk with him. The only opinion he valued was his own, and if you disagreed, you were sent packing. Also, some employees had their suspicions and doubts, but the ones that were doing ok at the company seemed to let their doubts slide. No one took initiative, because at the end of the day, they had a job that provided them profit. I think also they were scared to approach Barton about his tactics. This is another good example of a case where when things are going ok, ethics don’t always come first.

Barton’s main leadership flaw was that he didn’t care about his followers, and didn’t make them feel important. He did things on his own whether the employees agreed or not. With this attitude, eventually someone is going to blow the whistle of the operation, which was what happened. In the end, alienating your followers does not help out your case, but instead eventually crumbles your team and turns your followers against you.