By Kevin Meyer
One of my favorite topics, and passions, is the second pillar of lean: respect for people. I am completely convinced that the reason most lean initiatives fail is because they focus solely on increasing value for the customer through the elimination of waste – or worse yet just on a random set of tools without first finding a problem for the tools. That's important, but just as if not more important is leveraging the creativity, experience, and knowledge of the oft-ignored brain attached to the pair of hands that most accountants believe is sole essence of the employee.
Many leadership cognoscenti are realizing this. Just this today Terry Starbucker had a post on 10 Principles for the Selfless Leader that mentioned aspects of the respectful servant leader:
7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
As did Dan Rockwell in a post on The CEO of Deloitte Learns Respect from his Dad.
- Treat others with respect and you can be an effective member of a team.
- Treat others with respect and you can be a leader.
Humility, respect, virtue, values. Great characteristics. Unfortunately it's still not enough.
The most recent Sports Illustrated has a cover on Ohio State's football coach Jim Tressel that begins with his leadership traits:
The character traits that have made Jim Tressel a successful football coach and a beloved figure in Ohio are numerous and frequently cited. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has praised Tressel's "integrity" and said he is the kind of man you'd want your son to play for.
Under Tressel, the Buckeyes often sat together before meetings or at the start of practice for 10 minutes of "quiet time" to read about virtues such as humility, faith and gratitude. Tressel liked to say that his teams "play as hard as we can play" but also "respect as hard as we can respect."
Sounds familiar. Perhaps one reason why he has been compared with the greats like Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. But respect only takes you so far.
Yet while Tressel's admirable qualities have been trumpeted, something else essential to his success has gone largely undiscussed: his ignorance. Professing a lack of awareness isn't usually the way to get ahead, but it has helped Tressel at key moments in his career.
That is, until others became all too aware. Allegations of of improper compensation for his athletes have dogged him for years – and he claimed ignorance. That changed last weekend.
A failure to disclose potential violations is considered one of the NCAA's cardinal sins and almost always leads to a coach's dismissal or resignation. Yet Ohio State supported Tressel and continued backing him despite weeks of negative press and calls by prominent alumni for him to be replaced.
That support crumbled suddenly over Memorial Day weekend. Tressel was forced out three days after Sports Illustrated alerted Ohio State officials that the wrongdoing by Tressel's players was far more widespread than had been reported.
Ignorance, whether by the supposed leader or the organization that supports him – both of which happened in this case, is not a virtue. It is not humble, and it is not respectful. True leadership begins with a solid ethical foundation.