Sustainable Leadership

There is leadership for a brief season. Then there is sustainable leadership. Take a look at Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church or Andy Stanley at Northpoint Community Church for example. Forget theology for the moment. These guys have staying power as leaders. I’d suggest checking out Stanley’s Leadership podcasts. There is one a month that always contains at least one thing you can incorporate into your leadership.

This week’s big leadership news is on the other side of the coin. I follow United airlines. I’ve been a Continental/United frequent flier for about 12 years. I’ve seen it in good times (when Gordon Bethune was CEO), sliding to mediocre times (when he was replaced by Larry Kellner a bean counter), and then straight downhill under Jeff Smisek (a mergers & acquisitions lawyer).

Suddenly this week, Smisek is out. Along with two other senior executives.

It’s been building for a while. There have been technical glitches. Employee morale is in the tank. Now there are discussions in the New York Times about ethics problems.

Bethune at Continental and Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines both focused on the customer and the employees. They did things to boost morale. They focused on customer satisfaction. This month’s Leadership podcast from Andy Stanley features Frank Blake retired CEO of The Home Depot. He also discussed customer focus first, employee focus next, and CEO self-focus last.

Sometime you get the idea reading the news that CEOs spend more time negotiating their own pay and perk packages than on thinking about how to lead the company.

Ethics problems continue to bring down high level executives, yet, many think they are immune. Until it all hits the fan.

Have you seen leaders flit from one program to the next. No sustainable initiatives. Worse, no focus on the customer or focus on the employee. You might get your millions, but how do you and your wife face the folks at the country club in the morning?

Solution? Focus on your customer. Know what business you’re in and what value you provide. Then provide it–with a loyal staff that feels supported and empowered.

Ethics and focus on others. Gee, that sounds familiar. Ancient wisdom that is still appropriate.

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