THE JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP APPLICATIONS
Vol. 7, No. 5
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102
“Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.“
ANNOUNCEMENT: On April 24th, Dr. Cohen was selected as a recipient of the Claremont Graduate University Distinguished Alumnae/Alumni Service Award for 2009. His award read in part: “Through your extraordinary leadership in the military, educational, and business sectors, you have distinguished yourself as a superb leader and innovator. These achievements, along with your work in promoting and sustaining the legacy of Peter F. Drucker, honor not only the Drucker School of Management, but the whole of Claremont Graduate University and its community of graduates.”
THIS MONTH’S FREE DOWNLOADABLE BOOK: Industrial Leadership and Executive Ability : Lessons to be Drawn from the History of War, Science, and Statecraft by Edward David Jones (275 pages)
Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen not Published in the Journal of Leadership Applications:
What to do about Office Politics from Human Resources IQ
Don’t Be Afraid of Getting Laid Off from Human Resources IQ
The Most Important Leadership Decision from Human Resources IQ
What are You Going to Do About It? from Human Resources IQ
Peter Drucker Says Leaders Make Themselves from Training Magazine
Leadership Laws – It was Drucker’s Favorite Book from Leadership Excellence Magazine
People Have no Limits – Even after Failure from Human Resources IQ
A Sure Way to Fail from e-Bim.com
What to Do about the Crisis from e-Bim.com
Drucker: Every Leader Must Declare his Expectations from e-Bim.com
Peter Drucker of the Value of Ignorance from Performance and Profits
Webcast: The Lost Lessons of Peter Drucker from The American Management Association
Five Things William Cohen Has Learned From Peter Drucker from CIO Magazine
How the World’s Most Celebrated Management Consultant Got His Title from Industry Week
The Night Peter Drucker Declared He Was Not My Father from e-BIM.com
Drucker’s Lost Lesson from Training Magazine
Effective Leadership in Leadership Excellence
Other Recent Articles; Not Linked
“Leading in Crisis,” The Keystone Review, March 2009, Vol.2
“What Drucker Taught Us about Social Responsibility,” Leader to Leader Journal, Winter 2009, pp.29 -34
“What Drucker Taught Us about Social Responsibility and Leadership,” Creativity and Innovation, Peter F. Drucker Society of Korea, Summer, 2008, pp.1-30.
THE 3rd UNIVERSAL LAW OF LEADERSHIP:
DECLARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
© 2009 William A. Cohen, PhD
You may have learned the name “John Paul Jones” in school . . . but you may have forgotten why. It is a story worth retelling, because it strikes to the very heart of the power of the universal law of declaring your expectations. John Paul Jones was a young Scotsman with significant sea experience. He asked for and was given a commission as a lieutenant in the Continental Navy during our War of Independence. Jones was highly successful right from the start. He captured seventeen English merchant ships on his first patrol. On September 23, 1779 he located a convoy of British merchant ships escorted by two British ships-of-war. He immediately attacked the larger, the HMS Serapis. Jones lashed his ship to his larger enemy so it could not escape and began to fire into her. However, he had failed to reckon on the efficiency of the Royal Navy. The Serapis fired broadside after broadside into Jones’ ship, the Bonhomme Richard. Soon, it was the American vessel that was on fire and that was in danger of sinking.
The British captain demanded that Jones surrender. Jones’ answer, given more for his own men than the British, set a tradition for all time in the fledgling United States Navy. It was an outstanding example of a leader declaring his expectations. “I have not yet begun to fight,” he declared. Jones’ crew rallied and they went on to prove him right. They sunk the Serapis and won the battle.
Two Categories of Expectations
A leader’s expectations can be seen as falling into two categories. The first tends to be tactical and of shorter term. These expectations have to do with immediate tasks, and short and intermediate goals and objectives. The second sets of expectations have to do with the leader’s vision for the organization. The word “vision” calls up an image of the leader seeing a picture of the organization in the future . . . what it will become, and how it will look. Both sets of expectations are important. If the leader’s vision of the organization is fuzzy and vague, the firm will probably be unsuccessful in the long term no matter how well the shorter-term tasks, goals, and objectives are formulated and executed. This is because these expectations may be taking the firm to a less than optimum future. On the other hand, a clear, sharp, well thought out, and worthwhile vision may never be reached should the shorter term class of the leader’s expectations be poorly done or neglected.
An Air Force Commander Solves a Difficult Tactical Problem
During the Vietnam War, Ted Crichton was given command of a squadron flying four-engined C-130 transports out of Danang, Vietnam, and later Ubon, Thailand. Ted’s squadron had an unusual and difficult mission and Ted’s job was to accomplish that mission with an aircraft intended for combat support, not combat flying. The lumbering C-130 transport was to be used as a night controller of fighters attacking heavily defended targets over North Vietnam and Laos.
Ted soon learned that his huge C-130s had to make rapid high “g” maneuvers called “jinking” to avoid the fire of anti-aircraft guns. But the C-130 was a built as a transport aircraft, not a fighter. Transports were not designed to take the high stress loads from jinking. Moreover to accomplish the mission, the C-130 had to open its giant cargo doors in the air. The limiting speed for safety with the doors open was 150 knots. Above this speed, the additional stress could cause the structural integrity of the aircraft to fail. The knot is the standard unit for measuring an aircraft’s speed. It is a nautical term. It means one nautical mile per hour. However a nautical mile is not the same as a statue mile. Without going into the technical reasons as to why early seafarers adopted it, a nautical mile is equal to 1.15 times an ordinary mile. So, when your airline captain announces that you are flying at so many miles an hour, he has converted the knots by which he measures the aircraft’s speed into miles per hour for your benefit. Miles per hour are rarely used for flight purposes.
While 150 knots or 172.5 miles per hour was the safety limit with open doors on the C-130, the C-130 needed to fly at up to 250 knots or 287.5 miles an hour for effective jinking. To jink at a slower speed would not be as effective and could cause the aircraft to stall. With the addition of a flare dispenser to hold the flares used to illuminate targets on the ground, the lower door could be locked, but not the upper one. Although there was little danger of a wing or control surface failing, higher stress caused loads on the airplane that could cause the upper door to open and damage to the structure holding the tail surfaces in place. This could cause additional problems in flying the aircraft, even causing it to crash.
Ted informed higher headquarters of the problem. They contacted the Lockheed Aircraft Company that built the aircraft. Meanwhile, Ted and his squadron had to jink their aircraft every night with the danger of structural damage to the airplane. Ted credits the solution to this problem to the third universal law. He didn’t mandate a solution, because he had none to offer. Instead, he declared his expectation that someone in the squadron would solve the problem every chance he got. Eventually, someone did exactly that. Every time a C-130 jinked, the crew made certain that the maximum hydraulic pressure was exerted on the door to hold it closed by working a hand pump designed to restore hydraulic pressure if it were lost in an emergency. This additional hydraulic pressure on the door in effect raised the stress limit by increasing the force holding the door closed. This was not a solution that higher headquarters liked. Lockheed wouldn’t certify Crichton’s solution, and it wasn’t certified by the Air Force either. But when there was nothing else available, it worked.
After retiring from the Air Force as a brigadier general, Ted became president of American Nucleonics Corporation. Ted credited his success partly to the same universal law of leadership. “Constant discussion with your people of your expectations . . . what you are trying to do and how you are doing . . . is always the key,” he said. [i]
What Is A Vision, Anyway?
A vision is an all-encompassing picture of the way you want an organization to look in the future. Without a vision, your organization is as helpless as the leaderless caterpillars. Without a vision, you’ll never get “there” and neither will your organization. Just like the song sang by Bloody Mary in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, “If you don’t have a dream . . . if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?”
Can a 19th Century Businessman’s Vision continue into the 21st Century?
A leader’s vision can be so strong that, if it is still correct, it can continue long after the leader himself is gone. But what about a business leader? P.T. Barnum was a nineteenth century businessman and showman. Some say it was he that said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” This may or not be so, but his vision was not that of an organization that cheated the public. Rather, it had to do with an organization that amazed the public. Barnum put together a show of the most unusual people imaginable. These included Tiny Tim, whose height was only eighteen inches, or a man so hairy, he was termed “the Wolf Man,” or a woman who was thought to be 150 years old. He took them on tours all over the world, and they amazed wherever they went. His show eventually grew into the world famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum succeeded because he had a vision, but it was a nineteenth century vision. It was to bring live entertainment not only to the wealthy, but to the masses.
By the mid-twentieth century, television and movies and the fact that it became increasingly difficult to pitch circus tents near the big cities changed everything. As a result, sales plummeted. John Ringling North sold the circus to Irwin Feld in 1967 for $8 million cash. Feld turned the business around by abandoning tents and using convention centers. However, it was his son Kenneth Feld, who recognized that while business conditions, demographics, and technology changed, Barnum’s original vision for the business was still correct. He took over the company in 1984 on the death of his father. “My goal was to have the largest live entertainment company in the world,” he announced. He succeeded. Today, his company owns The Greatest Show On Earth®, Disney On Ice, Disney Live!,and newly acquired Feld Motor Sports. They play to over 30 million people a year in sixty countries, and annual sales are estimated at something like a half a billion dollars.[ii] Kenneth Feld says: “My greatest reward is audience appreciation. Children wave, dance, sing along and shout with glee. Adults applaud, tap their toes to the music, laugh out loud and watch the radiant joy of the kids. Our productions create memories, stimulate the imagination and touch the heart. It’s all about people communicating and connecting.”[iii] P.T. Barnum would have nodded in approval and understood. Barnum’s vision of entertainment for the masses marches on under Feld’s leadership. It is well to remember that great visions are always powerful. The vision held by the successful leader is extremely powerful partly because it is always before him. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking found that with great visions, “You have it, because it has you.” Such a vision is so strong that it can even appear in the subconscious to make things happen.
Other Leaders Change the World with their Compelling Visions
In perhaps his most famous speech, Dr. Martin Luther King told us, “I have a dream.” King went on to describe a very different kind of America than existed at that time . . . one in which a person wasn’t to be judged by the color of his skin, but the content of his character. Dr. King’s vision changed America forever. Sam Walton built a spectacular retail chain because he had a vision of providing quality goods to people in geographical areas that major retailers were not serving. He felt so strongly about his vision, that he risked his personal future and well-being, and left a well-paid, executive position at J.C. Penny in order to implement it. Wal-Mart was the fruit of his powerful vision.
Compelling Visions Bring Success
All successful organizations, whether small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, athletic teams, combat units, or even countries must be built on a clear and compelling vision. This vision provides direction for everyone. It guides all action and tells everyone exactly where the organization is going. Properly involved in this vision, members of the organization willingly work toward it. Almost miraculously, the organization usually attains the vision that the leader sees, sometimes in every single detail. Barak Obama electrified the world by becoming, against all odds, the first African-American president of the United States. He was an individual that a few years ago who was mostly unknown. He had been in the U.S. Senate less than two years. His primary opponent in his own party was Senator Hillary Clinton. Not only did Clinton have eight years in the Senate, but she was extremely well known as former President Bill Clinton’s wife. She had many accomplishments to her credit and many political contacts. If Obama somehow succeeded in gaining the nomination of his party over Clinton, he would run against a popular war hero, another Senator. Senator John McCain had more years experience in the senate and a long list of accomplishments. Yet Barack Obama won. How was this possible?
Of course there were many reasons including Obama’s intelligence, charisma, and likability and the fact that he ran a nearly flawless campaign. Chuck Tood, who had been NBC News Political Director, and was named NBC White House Correspondent after the election, wrote a book analyzing that 2008 presidential campaign entitled How Barak Obama Won (Vintage, 2009). One of the interest facts that he uncovered which he mentioned in a Today Show interview with Matt Lauer was that of the three leading candidates, Obama was the only candidate to state his expectations for the country and of the three, he was the only one to make an announcement speech declaring both his candidacy and his vision.[iv]
Get Your Expectations Clear and Compelling
Now, I know this may sound over-simplified, but the truth is some leaders just don’t know what they want for their organizations’ futures. They may not know what they want period. They just want their organizations to be “successful.” But, until the leader defines exactly what success means to him and to his organization, there is no hope. Therefore, you must take the time to get your expectations very clear in your mind. Lieutenant General Jack V. Mackmull served in combat in Vietnam and has had the distinction of having commanded infantry, aviation, paratrooper and special warfare units. Reflecting on his experiences, he noted, “You’ve got to begin by analyzing the mission requirements to determine what tasks need to be accomplished.”[v] Again, you can’t get “there” until you know where “there” is.
Mighty Charles Atlas Made His Expectations Compelling
Whenever I think of compelling expectations, I cannot help but think of Charles Atlas, of whom you may have heard, and Charles Roman, of whom you probably have not. Charles Atlas was a poor Italian boy who immigrated around the turn of the century. His real name was Angelo Siciliano. As a boy Angelo was painfully weak . . . a 98-pound weakling. After a painful beating by a bully, he cried himself to sleep, but swore an oath that no man on earth would ever hurt him again. Health clubs didn’t exist and he had no money to buy weights, so he had to develop a unique method of bodybuilding. He began to experiment. In twelve months he doubled his body weight. He entered bodybuilding contests and won. Then, he became well-known artists’ model. Among famous sculptures which used him as a model, are Alexander Hamilton in front of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., George Washington in New York’s Washington Square, and the “Dawn of Glory” in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Using the prize money from the contests and his modeling, Atlas developed a body building correspondence course and began to sell it through the mail. However, he couldn’t get enough customers with his advertisements, and he lost money. Married with two children, no income, and a floundering business, Atlas was in serious trouble. Enter Charles Roman.
Charles Roman worked at the Benjamin Landsman Advertising Agency of New York. In desperation, Atlas asked the Landsman agency for help. Roman was a recent graduate of New York University. As the most recent hire, Roman was given the account with the worst potential. That was Charles Atlas. Roman read over Atlas’s course materials and realized that the ads simply didn’t make Atlas’s expectations for his prospects compelling. Roman came up with new ways of doing this. Four months after their meeting, Atlas and Roman became partners. “The Insult That Made A Man Out of Mac,” one headline trumpeted. And Roman invited respondents to check the kind of body they wanted: “Broader Chest and Shoulders,” “Ironhard Stomach Muscles,” “Tireless Legs,” “Slimmer Waist and Legs,” “More Energy and Stamina,” the list went on and on. From a few hundred courses sold, the number climbed to 3,000 the first year they were in business together. Soon it reached 10,000. In 1971, the year before Atlas died they sold over 23,000 courses world-wide.[vi] The course is still selling today.
Now here’s the point. Charles Atlas declared his expectations for his potential customers, but until Roman came on the scene, he did not do so in a sufficiently compelling fashion. Once Roman made these expectations compelling, prospects were influenced to buy, and buy in a big way. Leaders declaring their expectations to influence those who follow them are much like retailers attempting to influence prospects to buy. Successful leaders do so by first making certain that their expectations are formulated in a compelling fashion. Part of Obama’s vision and expectation was change, but his compelling expectation was “yes we can!”
If You Want Expectations to be Compelling, Ask the Question “Why?”
To be compelling, expectations have to have strong benefits to the organizations once they are achieved. John Paul Jones’ men knew what the stakes were, or they probably would have asked him, “Are you crazy?” when he told the commander of the British ship that he had not yet begun to fight. What benefits will result, once you have turned your expectations into reality? Will your customers be better off? How? Will the members of your organization be happier or achieve more in their careers? Will society benefit? Will your organization be acclaimed number one in its field? Think through and know the benefits of your expectations specifically and in detail.
R.J. “Zap” Zlatoper is a modern admiral in the mold of John Paul Jones. Zlatoper asked the question “why?” and made his expectations compelling in a very dramatic fashion so that others understood the benefits. Admiral Zlatoper flew combat off a carrier during the Vietnam War, and commanded major naval combat units during Operation Desert Storm. As a four-star Admiral, “Zap” Klatoper commanded the entire Pacific Fleet. Then, he retired and became CEO of $19 million Sanchez Computer Associates, Inc. in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Sanchez Computer Associates offers integrated solftware solutions and services for financial institutions worldwide.
Said Admiral Zlaptoper, “Sanchez was and is a great company with terrific people. But they really didn’t understand what it really meant to work together. So, I took my top executives out to the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier to watch the extraordinary coordination and teamwork necessary to launch and recover naval warplanes at sea. It requires split-second timing and the precise interaction of hundreds of people. One screw-up or prima donna can spell disaster, so you can’t have any. They saw what I wanted of them, and they did it. I can’t help but think this new orientation has contributed to our hypergrowth, and our stock going from $5 to $32 a share.”[vii] It went further. During Admiral Zlatoper’s tenure as CEO from 1997 to 2000, Sanchez Associates grew to a $1 billion corporation.[viii]
You will need to know and understand the benefits to communicate your vision to others. You need to have them fixed in your own mind and soul as you progress towards achieving your goals. Without knowing why, you will not be able to convince yourself or others that the sacrifices are worth it once the going get tough, as it always will. Without knowing why, you will abandon your vision before it is attained. Without knowing why, your expectations cannot be compelling. On the other hand, knowing the specific benefits that will accrue when your complete your task, or reach your goal, objective, or vision will give you great leverage on yourself and on your organization which will help you to reach your version of “success.”
You Must Develop a Plan
There is a very old saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Planning is a process of thinking it through. You have established precisely where you want to go and why you must get there. Now you must establish exactly how you are going to do this. Start by scanning your environment. Combat leaders have been doing this for thousands of years. They do it and them come up with something they call the estimate of the situation. They look at alternative courses of action to reach their objective, and then decide on the best one. You must do the same. Major General Don H. Payne who saw combat in the Air Force in both Korea and Vietnam says: “Plan as meticulously as the situation allows. Generally, the more time and resources available for detailed planning, the more likely is success and reduced losses.”[ix] Sometimes reaching your final objective requires breaking this objective or goal up into smaller tasks. You can eat an elephant, but only if you eat it one bite at a time. So, you may need to break your larger goal down into smaller, doable bites.
Although you can do it in your head, many leaders find it useful to write their plans down with firm dates for reaching each expectation. I like that. It’s a way of even getting greater leverage on yourself and your organization to attain what you expect.
Promote and Implement Your Plan
Now that you have your plan, you can start working it. When you start implementing your plan, you will see that everything will not work out exactly as originally thought. That’s okay. The important thing is to start and stay with it, and adjust your plan as you proceed. Sure, you are going to run into obstacles. But that’s just normal. The simple fact that your organization is progressing toward its goal will help motivate it to continue.
Promoting Your Expectations is a Big Part of Implementation
Promoting your expectations means just that. It means promoting what you want your organization to do, what’ its values are, where you want your organization to go and what you want your organization to be. Think about it, use it as a basis of discussion, talk about it and write about it every chance you get. Tie it in with everything you do. Every time someone takes an action which moves you towards one or more of your expectations, let people know. Give them a pat on the back. As Mark Victor Hansen suggests, just don’t just check them off your list, declare a victory.
Major General Lucien E. Bolduc, Jr. was an infantry officer who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, and went on to lead men in battle in Korea and Vietnam. Considering the most important lessons from leadership which he learned from combat, he said: “Once you determine the real imperatives of the situation and plan, you must inform and meaningfully convince key collaborators of what must be accomplished, and how.”[x]
Successful business leaders also promote their expectations at every opportunity. To communicate his expectations to his salesmen, Elmer Wheeler, one of the most successful sales managers of all time, coined the phrase, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Fifty years later, his words still live and are communicated to new salespeople.[xi]
Jump-start Your Promotion through Dramatization
Successful leaders following this universal law know that it is important to dramatize their expectations as they promote them. Many combat leaders shorten their expectations into brief messages that have a dramatic impact and are repeated again and again. MacArthur said, “I shall return.” Commodore Dewey declared, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” Captain John Paul Jones won a battle by telling everyone, “I have not yet begun to fight.” During Operation Desert Storm, a newsman asked General Colin Powell the strategy for defeating Saddam Hussein’s army. Powell answered, “First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.” General Powell’s answer reached every soldier in every language of allied forces fighting in the war.
Listen to Feedback and Adjust Your Strategies
Robert Townsend, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, was president of Avis Rent-a-Car during its period of greatest growth. It was he who developed the “We Try Harder” theme which is still used today. He reported that one of his vice presidents who disagreed with a proposed action sent him the following note. It began, “If you insist, it will be my duty to make it so. However, I must respectively tell you that you are full of shit again.” Townsend never punished a subordinate for speaking his mind. He felt it was all part of the “We Try Harder” philosophy. It is also part of the third universal law of leadership.
You can’t get “there” until you know where “there” is. In this case, the “theres” are your expectations for your organization. To help the entire organization reach your “theres”:
- Get your expectations clear
- Make your expectations compelling
- Develop a plan
- Promote your expectations and implement your plan
- Listen to feedback and adjust your strategy
Others will follow because they know where to go. You will succeed because you:
DECLARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
[i] Crichton, Theodore P., telephone interview with the author, July 12, 1996.
[ii] La Franco ,Robert, “The Tightest Man in Show Business?” Forbes, (November 8, 1994) pp.67-75.
[iv] Barack Obama, Matt Lauer interview, The Today Show, NBC Television, January 13, 2009
[v] Mackmull, Jack V., letter to the author, July 30, 1993.
[vi] Gaines, Charles, Yours in Perfect Manhood, Charles Atlas, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), p.69.
[vii] Zlatoper, R.J., Interview with the author, January 7, 1998.
[viii] No author listed, “R.J. Zlatoper,” Greater Good Television, Accessed http://www.greatergoodtelevision.com/guest.php?gid=5&mode=b ,January 16, 2009
[ix] Payne, Don H., letter to the author, July 31, 1993.
[x] Bolduc, L.E., Jr., letter to the author, October 3, 1993.
[xi] Wood, John, “How Elmer Wheeler Can Help You Make Sales,” Early to Rise, July 26, 2008, Accessed at http://www.earlytorise.com/2008/07/26/how-elmer-wheeler-can-help-you-make-sales.html , January 19, 2009/
For more information, contact me directly by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (626) 794-5998. Yes we do give international seminars — The U.S. country code is 01.
THIS MONTH’S THOUGHT FOR LEADERS
If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable. – Seneca, 4 B.C. – 65 A.D.