THE ESSENCE OF LEADERSHIP

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People do not always understand it, but leadership does not come from a title. Leadership comes from relationship, influence, and persuasion. The genuine leader must know how to build relationships and persuade people, and that will never happen without influence.

Bernard Tyson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. In the 1990s, he was in a variety of VP roles. Although he was not yet the CEO, Tyson continued to learn all he could about leadership. He obviously understood the essence of leadership because he put it into practice. That is what sustained him in all his roles to that point in time but it also prepared him for his future CEO role. Tyson describes his experience (“How Did I Get Here?: Bernard Tyson” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/28/15–10/4/15, p. 96):

I learned how to lead by selling and influencing, as opposed to having complete control.

The true leader is never the person with the title. It is always the person with the influence.


UNPACKING TOO SOON

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We never know for sure where life is going to take us. Even when we think we do know, that very knowledge can be self-limiting. Let’s face it—has anyone among us always known exactly what we needed? Some of the time, yes, but not all the time.

Sometimes we carry preconceived notions into a new role. Not every one of those preconceived notions is necessarily accurate or realistic. Sometimes it is difficult to get over ourselves and come to that point where we realize we do not have all the answers. Moreover, not having all the answers is okay.

Bernard Tyson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. In 1992 (a long time before his present role), he became the CEO of the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Santa Rosa. He also had some preconceived notions. Reflecting on those preconceived notions, Tyson learned that he may have unpacked too soon (“How Did I Get Here?: Bernard Tyson” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/28/15–10/4/15, p. 96):

I thought I had arrived—I never thought it would only last for a year.

We must choose to be flexible. That flexibility requires that we cast aside our preconceived notions. I was once asked to fill the pulpit of a church for just four Sundays. At least that was my preconceived notion. Those four Sundays turned into a successful two-year ministry as the senior pastor.

We never know how, when, and where opportunity will knock. If we are willing to dismiss our preconceived notions, then maybe we can enter into something new and exciting.


MOTIVATIONS FROM THE HEART

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Doing a job for a wage is honorable. More honorable still is doing a job from the heart independent of the wage. Sometimes we perform a certain job simply because we are being paid to do it. Yet those times when we perform a job because our heart is in it raises the endeavor to a new plane.

Whether the motivation is merely money or passionately personal, we should monitor our motivation. Why? Because it can tell us a lot about ourselves and how effective we might be in the job we are doing.

Bernard Tyson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. He shares a compelling personal insight behind his career motivations (“How Did I Get Here?: Bernard Tyson” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/28/15–10/4/15, p. 96):

My mom was sick from diabetes, so we were in hospitals a lot, and I decided I wanted to run my own.

Our careers can grow from many different motivations ranging from merely money to the passionately personal. I have a feeling the passionately personal breeds the greatest success.


ADVICE ON RECEIVING ADVICE

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Sometimes we come across the most amazing items when we take other people’s advice. If another person’s advice pushes your buttons and you are able to improve your life through it, then more power to you! Then of course, we know that some advice is not worth contemplating.

Some rather humorous pieces of advice (with or without merit) come our way too. Bernard Tyson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. He shares a strong yet humorous word of advice (“How Did I Get Here?: Bernard Tyson” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/28/15–10/4/15, p. 96):

Drink black coffee. My uncle told me it impresses people and puts the fear of God in them.

Personally, I’m not sure if someone drinking black coffee impresses me or if I just feel sorry for that person. Regardless, I don’t think I will take that advice. I can find other ways to impress people.


KNOWING WHAT IS NOT GUARANTEED

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In business and in life in general, some situations are guaranteed and some are not. Wise is the person that understands the difference. Some of these situations involve the mundane, some involve life and death, and some fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Wise is the person that keeps the situation’s location on that continuum in proper perspective.

I think that periodic review of these truths is time well spent. Sometimes making that time is difficult, especially if you are anything like me. I have so much to keep on my mind and so little mind on which to keep it. Maybe you don’t have that problem, but I sure do.

Bernard Tyson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. He reflects pointedly on a rather significant item related to guarantees (“How Did I Get Here?: Bernard Tyson” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/28/15–10/4/15, p. 96):

No one is promised the end of today.

Thinking similarly in another age, Emily Dickinson mused:

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me.

Within the last year or so, I have endured the deaths of a significant number of friends, associates, and relatives. It simply seemed to be a season in which an unusually high number of people I know did not reach “the end of today.” We all are painfully aware that those are never easy times. Unfortunately, they are largely unavoidable times.

Because no one is promised the end of today, we should live each day in such a manner that we would have no regrets if it were our last day. That is a tall task. I suspect it is a task that if fulfilled, we would all find ourselves to be better people, our businesses to be better enterprises, and this world to be a better place.