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Leadership Lessons-Donald Keough

An Interview with Donald Keough,
Chairman of the Board, Allen & Company, Inc. Ex-President Coca-Cola company

A few inspiring stories of leadership of conviction and determination. Positions like CEO's have no choice but to act but those who dared act based on what their gut-feel and foresight said, became 'leaders'. Leaderships is not a title associated with tags like CEOs, CTOs, CFOs, COOs and CHROs', they are the reward for being one who others could not date to become! Leadership is a matter of conscious choice, very few have courage to take. 

Leaders like the two discussed below are people, whose attitude and forthrightness impresses us. We have not seen them or heard them. We do not even care, how they looked like and which color or race they belonged to. What matters in leadership is 'what you are known for'. We all have learnt, 'we live in deeds, not in years'! This is not a Harvard created statement. This is simply the value statement of leadership. 
Let's not use term 'leadership' so casually as we do! Let people earn it! And also, let's not use leadership examples of only the oft repeated names like Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, etc. Talk about leadership of all those leaders you see around, who may not be visible on billboards and on covers of biographies, but their creation that changed our lives and that touches our lives everyday! 
Do we have leadership celebrations day? Like Teacher's day, father's day, mother's day, can we have "My Leader's day"?

Two short stories below (told by Don in an interview in 2008)

Robert Woodruff, the legendary builder of the Coca-Cola company, held a dinner for all the top company executives to celebrate the 50th anniversary. In effect, his message was that he didn’t know what they were there to celebrate. He said when he looked back over the 50 years at the mistakes that had been made and that were continuing to be made and at the opportunities that had been missed; he was shocked that they had survived 50 years. He said if the company were to continue doing what it had done over the past 50 years, he believed no one would be around to celebrate the 100th anniversary. That little talk set the stage for the leaders of the company to continue to reach out, expand, and broaden their dimensions. It took courage for an Atlanta-based company to go outside the United States.

When Jim Cantalupo came in as CEO after McDonald’s had gone through six or seven years of lackluster performance. He met in New York with the analysts. He stood up and said, I’m probably not going to talk to you for the foreseeable future because I have a lot of work to do in the stores, and I’m going to spend my time and effort, and that of all of my associates, to fix the stores. When we do that, you’ll be able to make up your own mind. He died a year and a half later, but he set the pattern. If you look at what’s happened to McDonald’s in the past several years, it can be attributed to that simple, honest statement. There are good examples of people in the business who are not going to let some analyst decide how they’re going to run the business.

Nothing works unless it works through relationships. Nothing is possible unless you do it with and through others

Success is a journey and not a destination. The minute you believe it’s a destination, you’d better ask for the farewell party.


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