I interviewed Tim Donovan who discussed Lack of Leadership and How Good Leadership Leads to Success.
It’s great to speak with you today, Tim. I’m looking forward to hearing your views today on the topic of lack of leadership and how good leadership leads to success. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Sure. My name’s Tim Donovan, I’m the founder of Advanced Innovation Managers, and I’ve recently got into doing leadership training. That’s one of the things I feel, there’s a shortage of leaders. My background is, I graduated from * (2:42—unclear) Academy back in ’75. I’ve had many different troops under my command during the time I was in the Army for 11 years. I’ve also been a leader at AT&T and Hewlett-Packard in some of the consulting work I did for them. That’s primarily my background.
Great. My first question is: Where are the leaders?
It’s a good question, Dustin, and one of the problems is that a lot of the people don’t get the opportunity to learn to be a leader. When you take a look at the world in general nowadays, it’s not cool to be a Boy Scout because the news is full of those now with the sex criminals and things like that, which is some of them but nobody joins it. Many sports teams, especially in the younger ages, nobody wins, so it’s pretty hard to be a leader when there are no winners. A lot of the Boys Clubs and stuff are not run by leaders. The reason I talk about that is when I was 12 years old, I made my Eagle Scout, which less than 2 percent of the boys made, and I had to make decisions for a 55-person troop, like where you camp, what exercise you’re going to do. You start young and, therefore, you learn a lot about leadership at that point.
Well, why do we have a shortage of leaders?
Because people aren’t joining those programs. People are going to a lot of the sports or the clubs when they don’t have to be leaders. You don’t have that finite training, nor do you get the chance to have an example of what it means to be a true leader. That’s the main reason we have shortages, I feel. You don’t have the different clubs that many youth were part of in the ’60s, nor do you have the number of people coming out of the military that you had back in the ’60s and ’70s.
Do you have some main ideas or the most important principles of leadership?
When you look at the principles of leadership—and this is what I’ve noticed in corporate America—the first one is: be technically and tactically proficient. Many times, if you talk to some of the management, they believe just by being put in a position of leadership, you automatically become a leader, but the person has no idea what they’re leading. That’s not uncommon when you hire from the outside to get that. The other side of it is know yourself and seek self-improvement. That’s the second one I want to talk about, which is you really have to be honest with yourself and say, “Where am I weak? Where do I need to be to have people who can help me or that I can go study and become better at?”
The other one—there are a lot of them; there are nine—is: you need to set the example. When you look in corporate America today, you don’t see very many of them setting the example because a lot of the people in corporate America are looking to make their position known and then move on. They really don’t set an example of what needs to happen. What they do is come in to an organization, they grab what they can, get known for being good enough, and before a project ever fails, they’re gone, so they’re really not setting very good examples. The other thing is: ensure that the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished. Too many people feel that just by telling somebody to do something, it’s going to get done the way they want it. Again, to be a good leader, you need to be able to do that. Another one I’ve seen drop in recent years is training your people as a team.
When I originally joined corporate America, I joined AT&T. We were required to get 40 to 80 hours a year of training. It could be technical training or leadership training depending on what your position was. I don’t see that happening anymore because companies are cutting those budgets because of profits. The other thing I’ve seen in corporate America, and this one really, I guess, makes me mad, is: make sound and timely decisions. Many people just let things go until they become a crisis. They don’t want people to understand what’s actually going on. The other thing is, a lot of people tend to not develop a sense of responsibility in their subordinates. People don’t know what to do if not.
There are a lot of differences between the military and the business world, but if you look at Colin Powell, he took military leadership to the nth degree and wrote a book to make it fit into the civilian side of the world. That’s another thing that happened in the Army; you’re taught to lead and you lead by example. The other thing would be that in the military—and a lot of people will say military leadership is very easy because they have to do it or go to jail. Well, that’s a true situation, but the difference is, when I leave a group in a combat, every one of them is a trained killer; everyone has a weapon and either I’m looking out for their best interest, or if I’m not, they’re going to get rid of you first. That was called friendly fire if you go back to the Vietnam days and what’s going on overseas.
Again, being a military leader is probably a little bit harder than being a civilian leader, and I hear a lot of times that it’s the opposite effect. The other thing is just knowing your people, and that’s a big thing. I don’t feel in corporate America, we really know our teams. You don’t know how to * (9:05—unclear) with people so that they can use their strengths and train their weaknesses. That’s kind of a summation of some of the principles of being a leader.
Do you have any final recommendations?
Sure. A couple of the biggest things I’ve found is, number one: you’ve got to train your people. Too many people in corporate America feel that if they train their people, they’re going to take their place. You need to give them an environment in which to grow because a leader isn’t born. I know there have been a lot of books where some people will say a leader is born but they’re not really; they’re trained. They have to have that environment in corporate America; you’ve got to allow people to be wrong. But when we talk about people being wrong in corporate America, we want to make sure that they have a sound decision or the reason they did what they did.
Maybe it didn’t turn out and that happens. If you look at different companies like 3M, Apple, a lot of them had a lot of failures, even Microsoft, before they came out with product that stuck. You have to have that. One of the things that I love, I found a quote from Tom Peters, who wrote couple of the leadership books. He said, “Our job is not to create followers but to develop leaders,” and that’s what people forget. Too often, people come in to corporate America, climb the ladder, and, like I said, I look around and they’re gone before the project ever becomes due or the project’s ever done on paper; it’s basically finished. That’s, I think, the big things we need to do in corporate America: provide that environment, as well as follow some of these principles and there are also some traits. It just would take too long to go through them.
Thank you, Tim, for sharing your views on the topic of leadership. Did we cover everything you wanted to discuss?
At this point. There’s a lot more to it, so keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Being a leader means a lot of extra work, but the bottom line is, if you don’t create your future leaders, that’s when companies will peak and then they all of a sudden will crash when some of the leaders leave.
And thanks again for sharing.
About Tim Donovan
Competitive Advantage Architect (tm)