At UPS, there is a recording of the founder, Jim Casey, giving a talk at one of the management conferences. His talk, while somewhat difficult to listen is still timely today for anyone who wishes to be a great leader. Jim outlines some of the characteristics of a great leader; namely,
- Constructively Dissatisfied
- Person of Action
- Service Oriented (AKA Servant Leadership)
- Strength-Based Leader
- Active Listener
- Mission-Focused Planner
As you read, even listen to the talk, what characteristics do you hear? Which quote is your favorite?
If the rest of you will sit patiently for the next few minutes, I would like to speak to just one man who happens to be among us tonight. I won’t say anything that will identify him, except to himself. I’ll simply call him “Joe”.
Joe, you are in most respects just an ordinary man, the same as I. Our aims are very much alike — we are both trying to do the best we can with what we have.
You are, by nature, a man of inquiring mind, and you see much in your job and elsewhere in the company that should be improved. You are impatient to have these defects corrected. You are far more interested in improving what is bad than in crowing about what is good. You are, in a word, constructively dissatisfied. These are sure indications that you are going to make a mark in your company.
Because of your habit of thinking of betterment in your own work, your insight will become keener, and you’ll be quick to observe what can be improved in any other part of the business that you look at. You’ll be more than a routine caretaker of a limited job — you’ll be an imaginative, aggressive man of action.
Your mastery of your own job will attract the attention of your associates, and they will bring you some of their problems and ask your advice; it will broaden your outlook and test the soundness of your judgment when you are asked to think about problems not directly connected with your own work. Likewise, but without leaning too heavily on others, you will consult with them on some of your problems and find better solutions than you would have found alone. In fact, you might not see the heart of a particular problem until you have talked to somebody else about it.
Your daily work will never be drudgery to you, Joe. Instead, it will be a pleasure because you will be working for a purpose — not just putting in so many hours to qualify for a paycheck.
You will be known as a man who is willing to accept responsibilities and can be depended upon to do, without supervision, whatever needs to be done. You will not have to be driven every step of the way, but you will drive yourself. Because you do drive yourself, it will be less necessary for you to drive others. Your associates will try to emulate you, and they who are not themselves leaders will gladly follow you. The leaders among them also will give you their cooperation. They will often point out the ways that to you seem dark and help you maintain your own leadership.
You will be patient with the weaknesses and failings of others. If all people were as able and stable as yourself, you probably would not have your present job. Workers in the ranks will fail you at times, Joe, and people in bigger jobs also will, on occasion, be bitterly disappointing in their actions.
You will learn more and more from experience that no two individuals are exactly alike. So you will try to make the most of the good points of each person and forget the bad — or at least assign him to work where his bad points will do minimum damage. Wouldn’t it be a strange and uninteresting world if all people were perfect and alike in every way?
Not only will you be tolerant, but you will give full weight to the opinions of people who differ with you. Nearly half the time they will be right. Through your practice of being a good listener, you will receive some of your most valuable education. You will avoid bitterness and misunderstanding and will broaden your outlook by trying to see the viewpoint of the other person through his eyes.
You will try not to humiliate people. All people worth their salt have pride. You will let them feed their pride to their best advantage — and to yours.
You are, Joe, a trustworthy and sincere man. When this becomes generally known, whatever you say to people will carry tremendous weight, even though they might sometimes disagree with what you say. You won’t ever try to fool people. You won’t need to. You would be out of character if you tried. Now, I know you think some of these statements are copy-book stuff. Of course they are. But you, Joe, are one of the comparatively few people who actually follow the simple axioms of life and success that are well known to nearly all.
You do not consider yourself smarter than other people. In fact you are not. The difference is that you use your brains in an orderly, logical way, while most people use theirs chiefly for storage of jumbled information. You see clearly what you want to accomplish before you start to do it and, once started, you think through one step at a time, never losing sight of the main objective.
Not everything you attempt will be successful, but you will try to visualize the end result before doing a lot of work on a useless project. On the other hand, some of the ideas originating in your imagination will work out better than you thought, because you’ll get the valuable help of your associates in filling out the blind spots.
You’ll always be conscious of the fact that the sum total of your knowledge is not very great but you will not for that reason try to become a walking, talking encyclopedia. You will try, Joe, to acquire a reasonable fund of general knowledge, but you won’t spend much of your time learning about things you cannot use. A doctor of medicine does not need to be a lawyer, but he does need a knowledge of chemistry. Both need a deep understanding of human nature. So do you. And you, as a businessman with aspirations to a more important place in our company, need knowledge of business principles beyond what you use daily in your present job.
You have learned that a comprehensive understanding of the business world as a whole is necessary if you are to deal effectively with problems either inside or outside the company. You realize that you should know more about merchandising, production, distribution, price and profit relationships, corporation finance, investments, organization and administration, governmental controls, taxes, and the many other subjects with which a business institution must be concerned in dealing with employees, stockholders, customers, suppliers, and government. Some of these subjects are now almost a mystery to you, Joe. And so you are going to force yourself to learn more about them.
You are not going to wait to pick up crumbs of knowledge that come along by chance. You will seek out the things a well-rounded executive needs to know, and through objectively selected reading and courses of study, outside business hours, you will prepare yourself for the position you would like to see yourself in some day.
In the world of business, favorable opportunities are where you find them. The prizes go to those who are ready. New industries, new kinds of business, are particularly promising to people who get into them early, because there is the chance to share in their growth. You and I, Joe, are fortunate to be in what is really a new business, notwithstanding our company’s half-century of existence. Our retail business will be expanded to new areas and our development of the wholesale field has hardly begun. The market for our service will not be saturated for years. Our prospects are as bright as day. All this means that great things are in store for you, Joe.
Even so, there will be times when you will get deeply discouraged. You will have family and other problems that you cannot share with others. You’ll not always be free of financial worries. You’ll find yourself blocked on some of your plans. You’ll become physically and mentally tired.
Adversities will detract from the effectiveness of your work. You’ll feel your progress is not fast enough. You’ll want more money, and you won’t see when or how you are going to get it. You’ll see others advanced to positions you thought should have been given to you. There will be times when you’ll feel like quitting and you’ll say to yourself, “I’m all done. No more of this for me.”
But, Joe, you are made of stout stuff, and you’ll snap out of your mental depression. When you try to figure out what you would do if you left the company, you’ll decide that you are in a pretty good business after all. Your negative thoughts will be superseded by positive action. You’ll re-examine the questions that bother you, and you’ll see new light. You’ll find a compromise between the perfect situation that you hoped for and the imperfect situation that really is. And soon you will be surprised to see that the middle ground of little promise turned out even better than you had originally hoped.
Things will work out favorably for you, Joe, because impulsiveness will give way to patience. You will have learned from experience that progress is nearly always made one hard step at a time. And, as part of your long-range program for the security of yourself and your family, you will acquire all the stock in the company that you can get… If our business is as good a one as you and I believe it is, you will not find a better way to invest your money.
As to your job, you’ll see clearly that the price of progress is service and that the more valuable you make your service to others the more profitable it will be to you. You will reverse the common tendency of people to put dollars first in every move they make. You’ll see that money comes after results — not before them.
As time goes on, the soundness of that philosophy will prove itself to you. Without thinking much of dollars themselves, they will flow into your bank account and add to the value of your stockholdings in greater number than you had expected. You will have enthusiastic confidence in your business, in the soundness of its plans and in the opportunities ahead of it. Your personal ability and strength will seem strongly fortified by your admiration for, and trust in, your associates in management, whose interests will always parallel your own. And so, with a clear concept of what you intend to do and be, and with your feet squarely on the ground, you will continue the measures of self-discipline, which distinguish you from other people who waste their lives drifting aimlessly from day to day without plan or purpose.
That’s about the story, Joe. I have not tried in this one little talk to outline completely what your course of action will be. I have hardly touched on the details. They will require far more attention on your part than the general principles that guide you, because the principles, once clearly defined, will remain fixed while the details will vary with time and conditions. You will work out the details as you come to them in your own logical way. There will be no magic shortcuts. It will be a lifetime task. You’ll have no time to be troubled with boredom, but will find zest and absorbing interest in a life that is worthwhile.
Good luck to you, Joe, and good night.