Learned Leadership

 

 

I’ve heard it said that leaders are born and I’ve heard it said that leadership is learned. It’s probably a little of both.

But whether it comes from your genetic make up or your environment, I owe whatever leadership qualities I have to my Dad.

Great leaders lead by example and here are a few things he’s showed me.

Listen and Learn

Leadership starts with conversations.  If you listen to the other person, and really hear what they are telling you – you can learn something about them and about yourself.  The more you know about each other – the more you can accomplish together. I’ve listened as he talks with people many times.  And he really talks WITH them.  Never at them. He listens to what they have to say and shares his ideas.

Embrace Challenges Calmly

Challenge your thinking and challenge yourself.  Be open to new ideas while staying true to your principles.  No life is always easy.  And I’m sure raising five kids who were six years apart in age was not always a piece of cake.  (I can not imagine a house with FIVE teenagers.  I have all I can handle with two.) But what ever challenges he faced, my Dad kept his cool and did what had to be done. And he still does to this day.

Live their principles

Talking about something is easy.  Doing something about it can be an entirely different story.  True leaders don’t just talk about something.  They get involved and take action.

My Dad does not stay on the sidelines.  Even though he is retired, he’s busier than ever.  Whether it is creating a neighborhood park, getting a road repaired, volunteering at church, or helping a neighbor, he walks his talk.

Sing Out

Dad’s not afraid to raise his voice and say what needs to be said,  He shares with his children and grandchildren the stories of the past and talks with them about the events of our day.  By his example he has taught us to be aware, be informed, and express our opinions… even when we don’t agree with him.  🙂

Don’t have to be famous to be effective.

My Dad didn’t have to be the President of the United States, the Chairman of the Board (OK, GM might have done better of he was) or a celebrity to make a lasting impact as a leader. He just needed to be who he is, do what he believes is right, and set a great example for his children.

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Thanks for stopping by…Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker

 

A Few Key Maxims

Marie Gleason CarmichaelMarie G. Carmichael was a pretty wise lady. She lived to see 100 Christmases and 17 Presidents. She loved politics too. I wonder what she would say if she heard the news today?

It’s hard to find a space in the media today that is not filled with incumbents, candidates and presumptive candidates sharing their message with “the people.”

Perhaps, like many of us, you are tired of it all; the repetition, the name calling, the bickering and worse. I know I am.

There are a couple of things you can do.

Option #1 – Turn it off.

Turn off the TV and the radio, advise the newspaper you are on vacation so please suspend delivery until election day, and avoid opening email, accessing Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any other form of social media.

Option #2 – If you think Option #1 is a bit too extreme.

Each time you hear a politician, newscaster, or other pundit continue to behave in a way that creates dissension instead of creating solutions, send them the gift of these words that my Grandma shared with me:

“Have your facts in your head before opening your mouth. ”

“Don’t complain about a problem, without offering its solution.”

“Pointing fingers does not solve anything, you have a brain and two good hands, use them to fix it.”

“Always remember, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Perhaps if our current and hopeful politicians hear this a few million times, they will get the message.

We can only hope.

Otherwise we may just have to go back to seriously considering Option #1.

Why is Leadership Sooo Sexy?

A young leader on his way upLeaders.  We admire them, look up to them, wonder what it is to be them, take classes so that we can emulate them, at times we even envy them.  After all, leadership is sexy, right.  The power, the money, the prestige, the glamor, the lifestyle.  They strut in, serious and focused, each morning and end each day with a smile of success, jacket slung over their shoulder and a spring in their step.  They have the life!

Or maybe it just seems that way. 

I remember a meeting years ago that a group of us had with one of President Clinton’s top advisors.  It was not the discussion on the economy and world affairs that made the lasting impact with me. It was a comment made as an aside describing the President’s day or specifically his evening. For at 10 PM each night, President Clinton was presented with a big thick briefing book outlining the key information that had been prepared for him so that he would be ready for the meetings scheduled the next day.  Before he turned in for the night, he would read it through cover to cover.  Presidents have long days and lots of homework. It’s not all applause, handshakes and Hail to the Chief.

Whether you are President of the United States, or a team leader at a fast food restaurant, leaders have responsibilities and good leaders understand that the day is not ever over until the priorities are handled and responsibilities are met. It’s when leaders forget this that their leadership falters or is subject to question. 

A leader’s priorities and responsibilities

Leaders live by their word.

If you want to be chosen to lead, be ready to show that you can be trusted.  Leaders don’t lie, “forget” to tell the truth, let untrue assumptions stand or otherwise intentionally mislead. Leadership is not granted, it is earned by not only saying the right words, but by doing the right thing.  Your word is your promise and keeping your promises is a hallmark of leadership.  Broken promises lead to broken teams and opportunities missed by all.

Leaders finish what they start, even when it is inconvenient.

There’s a reason that the captain is the last one to leave a troubled ship.  Simply stated, the captain is responsible for the ship and every member of the crew.  Leaders who bail are not leaders and sooner or later they meet the censure of their peers.  Whether you are on the high seas, or walking the shop floor, a leader understands that taking care of the team and the people they serve is an obligation, not a slogan on a motivational poster you plaster on the lunch room wall to build up morale.

Leaders don’t ask of others what they will not do personally.

True leaders don’t have hatchet men, clean up crews, fall guys, or someone to delegate damage control to.  Dealing with, and taking responsibility for, failure is as much the leader’s role as are the accolades of success.  Throwing someone under the bus or letting a teammate take the hit is not leadership, it’s cowardice.  And that is a trait you are unlikely to find on anyone’s list of leadership character traits, LinkedIn profile, or a CEO’s resume.

Leaders make it look easy. 

Great leaders make it look effortless when the reality is anything but.  We don’t want to listen to our leaders telling us how hard it is.  Leaders don’t whine. We look to them to inspire us, to guide us, and to foster the belief that together “we can” do what we have set out to do. 

Leaders are admired for who they are as much as for what they do.

In the end,  leaders stand out for what they have inside of them and how they let it out.  The trappings of success may look great from afar, but the pinnacle of leadership is reached one step at a time and it is always an up hill climb to get there… and stay there.

Maybe leadership is not so sexy in real life after all. 

As a matter of fact, it’s a wonder that leaders have any energy left at all by the end of the day.  But somehow they do.  You see, for real leaders, the privilege of leadership itself is energizing…not just for the leader, but for everyone around them.

So, are YOU ready to make the climb?

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned….

Joan Koerber-Walker

 

Oh, and if you are curious about the young man in the picture, he is already making the climb.  As an athlete, he led his teams to championships, and now as an entrepreneur he is putting the skills he practiced on the ice to play in his business, putting his team mates first, watching their back, fighting for his team, pouring the passion and dedication that once drove him down the ice into achieving new goals.  I’d definitely call him a leader – but I’ll pass on calling him sexy, after all, I’m his Mom and that would just be weird.   

About the Joan:

Koerber-Walker-056 An entrepreneur, author, speaker and corporate advisor, Joan Koerber-Walker’s journey has spanned from corporate America to entrepreneurship and non-profits, as well as to community leadership and into the halls of Washington D.C.   To learn more about how CorePurpose and the CoreAlliance can help you grow your business in 2011, you can contact her by clicking here.

CorePurpose  is a registered trademark of CorePurpose, Inc.  CoreAlliance is a  service mark of CorePurpose Inc.  All rights reserved

Entrepreneurs, What Would YOU Risk?

It was 30 years ago, that Summer between my Junior and Senior years of college.  I was living with my parents in Danbury, Connecticut and had started dating the boy across the cul-de-sac.  One Sunday afternoon,  we went out on our boat – Me and my Dad – and that boy and his Dad.  We were cruising around Candlewood Lake and anchored across from  “Chicken Rock”.  

“So, who’s ready to risk it?” – my Dad joked. 

Swan DiveEveryone was laughing but I was game.  I dove off the bow, swam to shore and started to climb.  I was game – but not crazy. I climbed to the mid point – about 15 feet up – and jumped into the lake.  As I was swimming back to the boat, my Dad started yelling and pointing at the rock.  I looked back just in time to see that boy.  He had climbed to the highest point – and dove in head first.  Dad even caught it with his camera.

Ya gotta love a guy that’s willing to risk it all.

I did. Five years later, I married him.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with entrepreneurship?  Well, it’s not that different.  Many will tell you, at one point or another – you have to calculate the risk and take that leap.

Entrepreneurs are a rare breed.  We…

  • assess risk
  • weigh outcomes
  • institute a plan
  • execute it

And when we do it well – we reap the reward.

Sometimes when you take that risk – you end up building a really great business…

and sometimes when you take the leap – you get the girl.  :0)

Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Times They are a Changing – A day of GM Goodbyes

This morning – October 1, 2009, a reminder popped up on my calendar.  Today was the day my brother Rick retired officially from General Motors after 30 years.  He started in the Newark, Delaware plant at the age of 18, the day after his birthday.  Over the past three decades, he saw many changes, slow downs, strikes, and lay offs; but, he also saw innovations in manufacturing and new automotive technologies evolve. 

Richard-J.-KoerberHe started at GM in a time when working as a GM employee was a safe bet for the future and retires in a time when many have to wonder what comes next.  But, through it all, he was a hard working and dedicated employee, who delivered value, and through his working years at GM, bought a home, raised a family, and now in his ‘retirement’ years plans to focus his energies on building another business – his own. 

I’m proud of him.  He’s a great example of what it means to grow up in a GM Family.  And I know that his own business will prosper because he brings to it a dedication to customer service and quality  that will make his customers keep coming back and even more important – tell their friends about him.

Also today, I saw an article pop up from AdAge with another footnote to the GM Story.  This one too was another goodbye – After Talks to Sell Fall Through, GM Says Goodbye to Saturn.  The story chronicles Saturn’s story through it’s ads.  It’s dedication to innovation and service, the commitment it had to its customers and in many ways the feeling of engagement it’s employees, dealers and customers had in turn with Saturn.     Now with the Penske deal falling through, soon Saturn will be no more.

Saturn was once the shining star of General Motors, yet through years of corporate in-fighting and internal politics between the GM car divisions and the resulting challenges created for Sayurn, the fledgling brand could not grow to fulfill its promise.  Now Saturn is becoming ‘GM’s orphaned child’ – with no opportunity for a new homecoming on the horizon. 

Saturn employees and dealers put together a valiant fight to save something they believed in – a quality product, a new way of doing business, and commitment to giving the customer what they want through partnerships as shown in this – one of the last Saturn commercials.  Unfortunately, it looks like this time, they could not win the battle.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkikIApaP1s]

2009 Saturn SkyIn kind of an odd twist –

the last car my brother ever built at the GM Newark Delaware plant,

was a Saturn SKY. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Missing the Innovation Train

Innovation – doing something in a new way to make life better for the people who matter – is a wonderful thing – unless you happen to be the one who missed the train when it pulled out from the station.

KOERBERThat’s what happened to a once great family business, Koerber’s Beer.

Hey – you may be thinking – that name sounds familiar.  Yes, Koerber’s was once our family business run by my grandfather William G. (Bill) Koerber and his brothers.

Koerber’s Beer and the other brands, including Friar’s Ale and later a new innovation, Malt Liquor led the brand portfolio.

Grandpa’s brother, Clarence “Click” Koerber, invented malt liquor and began production at the Grand Valley Brewing Company in Ionia, Michigan some time around 1937. Great  Uncle Click named his magic brew Clix Malt Liquor.

The family business managed to survive through two World Wars, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.  Instead, it was an innovation in the brew master’s art that led to it’s demise.

That change was the imagepractice of increasing the preservative content in beer and ale.  By adding additional preservatives, competing breweries were able to ship their beers for greater distances, store the product for longer periods of time, and increase shelf life for distributors and retailers taking advantage of major economies of scale.

There was only one problem, it affected the taste of the beer.  Koerber’s brand was associated with Age, Strength, and Purity.  Grandpa, as brew master was sure that no one would buy let alone want to drink the lesser product.   And Grandpa was wrong!

By 1949, the last bottle of Koerber’s beer was crated and shipped from the plant in  Toledo, Ohio.  The factory was closed.  What today we would call a series of micro breweries, Koerber’s, and it’s sister company Grand Valley Brewing could not compete with the mega brewers who had emerged.

By the time I came along, in 1960, the only Koerber’s beer that was still in production came from the mini brewery that was hidden behind the secret wall in the Dutch Room off the boat well in Grandpa’s home at Grayhaven on the Detroit River. But that’s a story for another day.

So when you hear the whistle blow and see the innovation train pull into the  station, be sure to have your ticket ready so you can board.  You don’t want to be left behind!

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

How big of an impact can one thing make?

I remember my grandmother quoting the poem “For the Want of a Nail…” to me as a child. Her message to me – all things great and small can have tremendous impact on the success or failure of what we are trying to achieve”

For want of a nail,

V-Trak Nails 5 Citythe shoe was lost.

For want of the shoe,

the horse was lost.

For want of the horse,

the rider was lost.

For want of the rider,

the battle was lost.

For want of the battle,

the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail!”

 

Anonymous

Grandma looked at life as a series of chapters, each full of choices, opportunities, goals and challenges. When one chapter ended, another commenced. You might not have control of all the twists and turns of the plot, but you could make a huge impact on how the story turned out.

So, why write an article about business – and that’s what this is – with old proverbs and messages learned at Grandma’s knee? Because we often make business and business decisions much more complicated than they need to be!

Many of the lessons we learned early on in our lives – when things were simple – can have a significant impact on business success. Simple lessons like –

  • Look both ways…
  • Listen to your teacher
  • Look out for your brother
  • Don’t cry over spilt milk
  • You’ never know until you try
  • If you fall down – get up
  • You’ll never finish if you don’t get started.

Our lives and our businesses are made of a continuous series of little things – some that may seem important at the time but have little impact in the grand scheme and others that seem insignificant but can have a long and lasting affect. The trouble is that we lack perfect intuition or the crystal ball to determine what the important things are right now.

There may be some pretty big questions that you are be facing in your life or business in today’s economy.  It pays to keep in mind that the simplest answers are often the right ones and, as in the case of the nail, one small thing can make a big difference. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Twenty-four years ago today

I married Chris Walker on June 8, 1985.  Now for some that may seem like a long time ago, but to me it feels like yesterday.  

weddingThere were some that probably wondered about us.  We’re very different people in some ways. But where it really counts, we’re a lot alike.  We share the same values, the same love for family, and most of all, over the years we’ve learned to work together to build something we both believe in, a great family of our own.

We both came from families of five kids and were blessed with great parents.  If you think 24 years is impressive, both my parent’s and Chris’ will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year in August!

I was talking to some friends over the weekend about marriages. 

No everyone has been as lucky as I have in picking partners.  And that is what it has to be, a partnership.  Just as in in business, picking the right partner makes all the difference.  No partnership or marriage is always neat and easy.  Family GradSometimes things get messy.  But every time changes came, whether it’s packing up at a moment’s notice so that I could take on a challenging new opportunity on the other side of the country far from family and friends, doing it again a few years later for another one, carrying the extra load at home with the kids while I worked and went to grad school, putting up with the ridiculous hours I tend to work when I get caught up in a project, or  supporting my decision to leave the corporate world and take the leap into starting my own business, his answer was always the same.  “If that’s what you want to do – go for it.”

Together, we’ve raised two great kids and built built a life where we can pursue very different interests while celebrating each other’s successes.  Most importantly of all –  at the end of the day, we have someone we love to share it all with.

I’ve heard it said that hindsight is 20/20.  Well looking back, I have to say, for me, picking Chris Walker to be my partner was a great decision.  Wouldn’t you?

Thanks for stopping by… Stay Tuned

– Joan Koerber-Walker