Last month on my web site I promoted the Chick-fil-A Leadercast to you, talking about what a fun and challenging time it would be. I found it personally (and physically) challenging. It was loads of fun and I would encourage you to save the date of May 10, 2013 for next year’s Leadercast!
Focused on a theme of the power of a single choice, there was something to learn from every speaker. The chosen group spanned the experience and political spectrum. Even if you didn’t agree with everything somebody might be saying, there were great things to take away from each and every speaker. I want to share with you something I learned from every speaker; but I don’t want to wear you down. So we are going to break this conversation down into two posts. Let me share with you a quick take away from the first group of speakers.
Andy Stanley (speaker, pastor, author of Next Generation Leader) talked about excellence and focus. He shared stories from Andy Grove (founder of Intel) and Truitt Cathey (founder of Chick-fil-A). His anctidote from Cathey revolved around a concern his corporate leaders had when concerned about sudden competition from new entrants into their market. He got testy with their fears and focus on marketing, telling them that while that was valuable, their number one concern should be on improving their quality and service to existing customers. “If we get better, customers will demand we get bigger,” he said. Market? Yes. But don’t forget the real basics.
Andy also had one other thought: We leaders spend lots of time thinking and planning our work/careers/projects but what is most important to us? Most of us would say our families or close friends/relationships. But as important as they are, do we spend even a quarter of the time thinking and planning for them as we do for other, less important, things in our lives? Think how much richer our lives will be should we decide to make that commitment.
Coach Urban Meyer (Ohio State Buckeyes Football Coach and former University of Florida Coach) gave a talk about his personal journey, not wanting to be that guy who couldn’t balance his personal and professional lives, but turning into that anyway. He talked about how severe health problems forced him to confront the issue that small choices along the way had created. He was not trying to say that you couldn’t have both family and a successful career, rather he was saying that leaders care for themselves.
Tim Tebow (NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner), along with CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, joined his former coach on stage to talk about leadership and choices. In an interview format, O’Brien got Tebow (and Meyer) to talk about leadership and winning. One thing that was very clear was the deep respect both men had for each other. Both regularly commented how they had learned something from the other. (How many coaches are willing to say they have learned something from their players? Are you willing to learn from your team and/or those close to you?) Tim talked about how football is, in the end, just a game; but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to care greatly about winning. It means you have to understand the role it plays in what you do. For him, it has given him an unpresidented platform from which he can fully live his personal mission: to bring faith, hope, and love to people in thier darkest hour of need. His celebrity, brought about by his football prowess, has allowed him to raise money to help hundreds of kids around the globe have better, more positive futures.
Soledad O’Brien (CNN anchor) interviewed Tim Tebow and his Florida coach, Urban Meyer (discussed above) and shared her life’s journey. I learned she grew up in Baltimore, MD, not too far from where my wife grew up. Her parents’ interracial marriage wasn’t even legal in Maryland when they first wed (out of state), but that did not deter them from building a life and doing what they believed was right. Her point was that leaders often have to do what they understand is the right thing to do, even when popular opinion is against them.
Dr. Roland Fryer (Mac Arthur Foundation Genius Awardee, Professor of Economics) discussed research he has conducted into how to make life better for those who are less fortunate. Beginning with a story about his childhood upbringing and how he beat the cycle of low expectations and failure that grips many poor neighborhoods, he discussed his desire to give back to the community and find ways to help others break the chain as well. He pointed out that when troubled youths become troubled adults, they will be held accountable for their actions. But, who bears responsibility for a troubled youth becoming a troubled adult in the first place. It is well understood that education can lift people out of poverty. Education offers mental discipline; toughness that can help one succeed long after they leave the classroom.
If childern aren’t learning, who bears responsibility? It is easy to simply blame the kids. “Give me better kids and I can give you better students,” many teachers in low performing schools would comment during interviews. This provoked the very best line of the day: “I hate to tell you this, but poor parents are giving you the best children they have. They aren’t hiding the good ones, waiting for a better opportunity to educate them!” Dr. Fryer’s point is that when parents and teachers understand and commit to their roles and resposibilities with underacheiving students, great things can happen. And Dr. Fryer has had the opportunity to study and prove his hypothosis in many venues in recent years.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or a business leader, we must all remember that our choices are continuously affecting those who do look to us for leadership. Our job is to hold up our end of the bargain and make sure our team develops the skills, talents, and discipline needed to achieve their goals.
Wrapping Up This Week
As you can see, there was lots of great meat… and that didn’t include the short interviews and other elements of the agenda.
I attended Leadercast at the Fredericksburg downlink site sponsored by SimVentions, a local information technology company co-founded by my good friend and fellow John Maxwell Team member Paul Gustavson, and Fairview at River Club Church. The venue was great and the people very helpful with registration and making everybody comfortable throughout the day. We had a great table crew and it promised to be a super time. The program did not disappoint.