Friday, September 7, 2018

The "Three G's" for Leaders

I have now had the pleasure to work in the business landscape for over thirty years, most of those in a variety of sales and marketing executive roles across number of well known consumer products companies.  Most recently, I have had the pleasure to advise a large number of senior executives as part of the consulting practice that I now lead.  Through all of those experiences, I have had the chance to work with VERY EFFECTIVE as well as VERY INEFFECTIVE / DESTRUCTIVE senior leaders.  While I do not believe there is a simple formula or model that leads to effective impactful leaders, I do believe there are a number of key considerations or practices that help effective leaders "practice" their craft.  Today's essay is about three attributes / practices ( the "active" voice is important in this essay) that I think are critical for leaders to be effective, the attributes / practices that I call " The Three G's for Leaders," Gratitude, Generosity, & Gumption!




The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

This attribute is foundational for all of the "Three G's" and in this spirit I have highlighted it first in my list of three.  We are NEVER thankful enough, for the resources, teams, businesses, etc. that we have the chance to work with in our professional lives, none the less the friends, family, experiences, etc. that we have enjoy in our personal lives.  Always start by saying "Thanks!"  Great leaders "get it" that they have unique opportunities and responsibilities in their roles and should start by being thankful and appreciative of the role and the teams/businesses that surround them.  Too often leaders feel like they need to show how smart they are, or how decisive they are, or how powerful they are, ... rarely starting by showing how grateful they are to have the chance to lead the business/team at hand.  An important element of the definition above is the "active voice" of the last two words, "return kindness."  "Gratitude" is not only being appreciative, and being ready to show appreciation but to take action to "return kindness" to the organization /business that surround them.  Think to yourself how rarely the phrase "Leadership Kindness" is bantered around as a key trait for successful leaders .... maybe a theme for an upcoming essay ??




  • The quality of being kind and generous.

This attribute / practice emanates from the first "G", and is completely active in tone and orientation.  As leaders, are you taking intentional actions to be "generous" to your direct reports, to your key clients/customers, to your board or your executive team ???  These aren't considerations that I see very often advising key leaders today, and I saw them rarely across my corporate leadership roles. Leaders that I encounter are always SO BUSY, SO STRETCHED, SO DRIVEN, SO STRESSED, etc. but never "SO GENEROUS."  I totally understand that this idea / practice is really hard, who has the time to find slots in their over-scheduled calendars to take actions of kindness or generosity??  While I relate to the fact that this is hard, I want to suggest that it is not something to try to "schedule" into your lives, but to incorporate into your being!  We rarely consider that we need to breathe, walk, eat, drink, sleep, use the bathroom, etc. just to live.  Could we work to find ways to incorporate "generosity" into our day to day rhythms, to be as regular and natural as getting our morning coffee or commuting to work??




 Shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness.

Businesses always have ups and downs, just like the cycles of cultures and civilizations, no organization travels along a straight up ( or down) trend lines.  Leaders need to be ready for the twists and turns around every corner, which is why I have seen "gumption" as a key attribute / practice of successful leaders.  This idea of having "spirited initiative and resourcefulness" in the face of dynamically changing business circumstances really rings true to me personally.  As Chief Customer Officer for Bolthouse Farms (2009 - 2015), I faced a number of business situations that I felt could have dramatically damaged or destroyed the business during my tenure. I remember three such specific moments across my six year tenure and while I was pretty "freaked out" in each circumstance, I kept active and kept looking for ideas and solutions to the immediate challenges we were facing.  I am not sure how "shrewd" I was,  but I was certainly "spirited" and "resourceful" as we worked our way out of each of those three treacherous situations.

As leaders, I hope that we can all remember the "Three G's" in good times and bad, working to take action to bring "Gratitude," "Generosity," and "Gumption" into our leadership roles in the days ahead.  Stay active in your practice of the craft of leadership, keep looking for ways to incorporate these three ideas into the regular rhythm of your professional life and if possible, find ways to teach and model these three practices to the young leaders around you!

Note: in the essay above I have used the phrase "attribute / practice" with intent.  I don't want anyone to think that "The three G's" are learned in some business school class, or are inherent qualities of certain leaders but not others!  We must all keep practicing the craft of leadership and keep looking for ways to improve our skills and approaches across many areas,  and certainly in these three!