My CEO Boards of Advisors and my KEY Executive group had the pleasure of sharing part of a recent meeting with Don Schmincke, often referred to as the world’s “management renegade.”  He opened his presentation acknowledging that his firm’s work is “politically incorrect but scientifically accurate.”

You see, Don is a highly regarded management consultant but who’s educational background is MIT and Johns Hopkins, neither of which would you put on your top ten list of business schools.  Don is a researcher by training and his presentation centered on what he and his firm have learned over the years about leadership.   They studied leaders going back centuries such as Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Hannibal, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, even the samurai, all of whom had difficulty motivating their followers.  They identified three dangers all leaders should be aware of in their companies.

Danger #1 – Tool Seduction

As leaders we are always working toward achieving results.  And we are usually attempting to change the behaviors of our people in order to get those results.  Often times we implement the latest “leadership theory of the month” to change those behaviors.  If you do this several times a year your employees just become confused.  Are we to follow his/her April philosophy or the September one?  Another strategy is to provide your workforce with new technology (tools) to improve production.  Keep loading them up with the latest gadgets and things are bound to improve.

Neither of these is a lasting strategy according to Don.  Where you should be focused is on changing the beliefs of your staff.  If you can get them believing in what you want to accomplish it will create a passion in them and results (profits) will follow.

Danger #2 – Selfishness

Humans are selfish by nature.  It is all about me.  So you need a compelling saga in your company, something that defines your purpose.  Don suggests you need to create a drama because if you don’t your employees will make up their own drama and it will be negative.  Clarity around purpose, mission, vision, values and strategy are important to be shared by you with your staff and do it frequently.  He cited examples such as Coke (Put Coke within arm’s reach); Lexus (Beat Benz); Ford (Quality is Job #1); General Electric (Become #1 or #2 in every market we serve).  Drama.  Drama creates passion and passion creates results.

Danger #3 – Fear of Death

Here Don is asking if your compelling saga or drama has created in your employees something they are willing to “die” for.  And this starts by building a strong management team.  Hire on behavior and not a resume.  Where are you being sucked into tactical situations?  Plug that hole by replacing or improving the individual who is causing that.  Continually develop your direct reports so they can take on more responsibility.

In conclusion Don encouraged us to craft a tribal environment.  Every company has its symbols, rituals and stories that are shared.  Identify them and then preserve the ones that support your compelling saga and destroy those that do not.

Consider Reading This

High Altitude Leadership: What the World’s Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success by Don Schmincke and Chris Warner.  Warner is a mountaineer and entrepreneur, Schmincke a leadership consultant, together they use mountaineering examples to show leadership techniques and how, when applied in business situations, can vault you ahead of other business owners.