Published on: April 21, 2008Content Guy’s Note: Harold Lloyd is, by pretty much any measurement, one of the most popular and successful motivational speakers on the circuit today. For years, he has offered his unique perspective on retail excellence to groups big and small, and has combined experience with showmanship to get people to think about their businesses from unique perspectives and in new contexts.
Harold – who I have known for more than 20 years – has just written a new book focusing on one specific retail quality – leadership. “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” uses specific examples and offers defined measurement tools for how to identify and gauge leadership, while never losing touch with the intangible qualities that can make for potent leadership abilities within an organization.
Leadership, of course, is hardly a subject that has been ignored by business authors….which is where we started our discussion in this exclusive e-interview:
MNB: I checked, and when you go to Amazon.com and do a book search under “leadership,” you get more than 255,000 results. So what made you want to write another book on the subject, and what do you think is the central premise that you’ve arrived at that is different from most of those other books?
Harold Lloyd: I guess “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” (the book) began as people saw me getting older (gray hair), more traveled, and maybe a bit wiser. They saw that I had many opportunities to interact with some of the great leaders in the retail industry. Over time, advice on the subject of leadership turned into a seminar, which then morphed into this book. Looking over some of my original notes, the process took over 11 years.
I am very proud to identify four significant differences between my book and most others on the subject. The first, is that mine numerically quantifies, one’s ability to lead others. This leadership score provides a benchmark for future growth. Secondly, there are four chapters which almost never appear in other books on leadership: Genuine leaders are Health Conscious, Family Focused, they Discontinue Things, and they Know the Numbers.
Third, my target audience is the middle manager/leader and those planning to become one. Not the CEO’s of major corporations. Finally, this book addresses the three roles most of us play in life; parent, coach, and boss. It’s not just a business book but also a practical text on how to more effectively lead others.
MNB: Do you think leaders are born or made?
Harold Lloyd: Actually both. I’m convinced we are born with x% of our leadership skills. The y% amount is what we acquire through study, observation, and experience. Some are blessed with a large x factor, others are more challenged and have to develop their y% (x (born with) + y (acquired/developed) = total leadership ability.
MNB: It would be my argument that many companies in the industry are so focused on hitting today’s numbers that they breed managers, not leaders. Would you agree? How tough do you think it would be to make the kind of cultural changes necessary to change this approach?
Harold Lloyd: I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I offer a comparison between a leader and manager on page 19. I’ve seen case after case where managers are remanded for years to a role of compliance,…eventually losing all sense of how to lead others. They instead become automatons, following orders from the number crunches above who are oftentimes clueless to the essentials of creating an engaging workplace.
As in any cultural change, time, talent, and determination will overcome a maligned culture but its never easy or quick. I worked with this exact scenario a few years ago. A merger of sorts had married a “numbers matter most” management philosophy with a close-knit, people first culture. Three years is the earliest conversion period that can be hoped for. Five or more is more realistic.
MNB: If you were in charge of building a retail or supplier organization today, what would be the three most important things you would do in order to nurture leadership in the company?
Harold Lloyd: The 3 things I would do, without a doubt and in priority order, would be to:
• Establish high priority communication systems in my organization such as a daily “huddle up,” weekly manager meetings, monthly “What’s stupid around here?” sessions, quarterly letters to the home of my associates and 360-degree feedback surveys annually.
• A performance review system (detailed on pages 140 to 144) would be established immediately to specifically review the associates’ past performance and develop goals for future growth both professionally and personally.
• Introduce educational (external and internal) opportunities that would include an on-going mentoring program to give self-starters ample challenges to grow any area needing extra attention.
MNB: What’s the biggest leadership-oriented mistake that most companies or people make?
Harold Lloyd: There are two mistakes I see…the first is not remaining objective and open-minded about where genuine leaders actually come from. One need not to have packed groceries for three summers, cut meat for two years, or have been a grocery manager for seven years to become the best store leader that ever lived. In fact, I found my best store manager (leader) in my grocery buyer’s office. She was a part-time order entry clerk, mother of three young children. After a bit of encouraging and four years various mentoring and developmental assignments she was promoted to and successfully performed as a marquee store leader.
The second mistake, which happens later on, is that too many owner/executives look at the above-mentioned developmental assignments as a COST, not an INVESTMENT.
Great companies that create Genuine Leaders budget dozens of hours and thousands of dollars to grow their good leaders in a concerted effort to help make them great. Ask Hy-Vee, which brings all their managers (220+) together quarterly for additional communication, education, and fun. Ask Ron Pearson, Hy-Vee’s former President and Ric Jurgens, the current president - two genuine leaders and by-products of one of the best retail leadership development programs in the world.
For more information about “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” or to order a copy, go to:
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