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Ken Keller: What leaders say about leadership

Brain Food for Business Professionals

Posted: July 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

One of the most cost-effective and efficient ways a business leader can learn is by being mentored by peers. Everyone at the top faces the challenges of leading people, maintaining focus and fine-tuning the business model. What is it worth to learn from someone who has already "been there and done that?"

It is nearly impossible to gather a group of business leaders together and be a fly on the wall to overhear their questions, statements and snippets of knowledge and insight. Men and women of this ilk are eagles and fly alone. But it is possible to gather their philosophies through a series of statements they have made, and put them into a column for ongoing executive education.

"I have a simple management philosophy. If you treat your employees well, they will take care of your customers and your business."
- Dan Amos, CEO, AFLAC.

"My most powerful technique is to tell everyone who works here that one of their main responsibilities and obligations as an employee is to constantly challenge the status quo and relentlessly work to improve whatever product, process or system they may use to get their work done."
- Chip Perry, CEO,

"I learned a powerful leadership secret when I was in the United States Marine Corps. It was called the Five Ps: Prior planning prevents poor performance."
- Archie Dunham, Chairman, ConocoPhillips.

"The key to leadership is to have a vision and translate that vision to everybody in the organization with passion and conviction."
- Terdema Ussery, CEO, Dallas Mavericks.

"When I interview, I hand the applicant a pencil and a piece of paper and I ask them to make me a list of 10 things they've done in their lives that they remember with satisfaction. One inflexible rule is that five of the answers must come from before their 18th birthday. These early successes tell a lot."
- Mark Dimassimo, CEO, DiMassimo Brand Advertising.

"My experience tells me that it is important to be a coach and a teacher. Lead by example."
- David Brandon, CEO, Domino's Pizza.

"Take somebody who doesn't know how to do something, show them how to do it and give them credit for it."
- Steve Roberts, president, Edith Roman Associates.

"The most important advice I would give is to be a steady leader. A key is moderating your reactions to both good and bad news. Have exactly the same temperament in both situations and ask the same questions about impact on finances and customers."
- Ronald Kesselman, CEO, Elmer's Products, Inc.

"The most important element of leadership is to clearly state the mission and the objective of the company in a manner that gets everybody to understand and pull in that direction."
- William Lauder, COO, Estee Lauder.

"Select the best people for every key position, and give them the authority necessary to do their jobs."
- Massimo Ferragamo, chairman, Ferragamo USA.

"A real leader is a man who can build a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him."
- Paul Garrity, CEO, Garrity Industries, Inc.

"My most powerful leadership strategy is to communicate. I have no hidden agendas. We have four clear messages in our company: build brands, stick to strategy, have good people and achieve our financial goals."
- Irwin Simon, CEO, Hain Celestial Group.

"People make decisions based on feelings, not facts."
- C. James Jensen, CEO, Mara Gateway Associates.

"I am convinced that people will follow a leader they trust, and trust is built by actions, not words. To be successful, a CEO needs to lead by example and model the behaviors and attitudes they expect from their employees."
- Gary Costley, CEO, International Multifoods.

What statement resonates with you that you can put to use in your business?

As the second half of the year begins, resolve that your business will be stronger and in a better place six months from now.

There is no time like the present to take action and move forward to a new future.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom line results. He can be reached at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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