Lead True by Putting People First

Leadership Compass

Put People, Organization and Community First

No matter the industry, leaders face the same types of challenges. It’s a leader’s personal compass that makes all the difference.

Jeff Thompson, MD is chief executive officer emeritus at Gundersen Health System. He’s a pediatrician, an author, and a speaker on building a mission-driven culture. During his tenure, Gundersen Health was recognized for its quality care. Dr. Thompson was awarded the White House Champions of Change award in 2013.

I recently spoke to him about his new book on leadership, Lead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community.

 

Leadership Tip: Show people you are there to build them, not rule them.

 

Give Others Courage

You share the dramatic story of you intubating a baby, risking your own career to save a life. There are so many leadership lessons in this story. But I want to ask this: how do you teach others to make these decisions?

No leader can always be everywhere. No rule book can cover every situation. To prepare the staff first you need to believe you are there to build them, not rule them. Holding people accountable is looking backwards…being responsible for their success is looking forward. Give them the tools to make these decisions without you. You need to set a pattern of clarity of the values of the organization, the priority of service above hierarchy, service above self, long-term good over short-term self-protection. When they see you live this, when they see you recognize this in others and support this level of behavior, they will have the courage to do the same.

 

“You want to invite new ideas, not new rules.” –Dan Heath

 

Courage and discipline. You linked these together. Tell us why and how they relate.

Aristotle is attributed to have said, “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.”  Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it just means fear doesn’t get to make the choice. Having courage is a great start….without courage so little will move forward. But discipline gives courage legs. It focuses and moves the work forward. It keeps you from letting your courage make a stand but accomplish little.

For example…those protesting pipelines and coal burning are very courageous…but if they also have the discipline to lead the conservation effort…they will force the market pressures to limit new pipelines and coal burning. Courage plus discipline will have a much greater effect.

Or you may have bold clear no compromise rules in your organization about how all staff will be treated or how gender and diversity will be respected. Clear, courageous but not effective unless you have the discipline to live by it when one of your high performing stars behaves badly. You need the discipline to follow up on your bold stance. No one’s ego can be more important than the well-being of the staff or organization.

 

“Good leaders don’t tell people what to do, they give teams capability and inspiration.” –Jeffrey Immelt

 

Be a Humble Leader

The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters

People Matter

Leaders will always say that the most important part of their company is their people. People-first philosophies abound. Don’t believe it? Look at the plaque on the wall extolling the value of people.

But often the saying on the wall is not reality on the floor. It’s far too common to see people judged strictly on today’s achievements and not by their integrity and compassion for others.

Anthony Tjan’s new book, Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, is about defining goodness as a skill that can be learned and mastered, about the culture that’s created when we focus on people in a completely different way. I recently spoke to him about his philosophy. Anthony is an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and venture investor.

 

“Practicing goodness isn’t just a pleasantry..it’s our duty.” -Anthony Tjan

 

Understand True Goodness

The “Good People Mantra” is a powerful and simple summation of your philosophy. Would you share it with us?

Of course. The Good People Mantra is about five principles and commitments that define what true goodness really means.  Think of this as a sort of Hippocratic Oath for leaders to follow. It begins with always being people-first.  Make your decisions with this filter in terms of how will the outcome affect my people?  Second, recognize that goodness is really defined in terms of how you can make others feel and become the fullest version of who they are. When you are in their presence do you do that? Or when you are in the presence of someone else do you feel that? Third, goodness is something much bigger than competency – it requires character and values.  Fourth, goodness requires one to be balanced against the tensions and realities that fight against it.  We need to be self-aware of these tensions and ask the right questions to make us better at finding balance. Fifth, do goodness not only when you are morally tested or trying to avoid being bad but, rather, do goodness whenever you are in a position to do so.  Real goodness comes from those who practice being good whenever the situation allows. And recognizing that this is a life-long pursuit and intention.

 

“Truth is ultimately expressed in terms of how we act.” -Anthony Tjan