David Maister - Professional Business, Professional Life
David’s ResourcesAbout David
NEW! Browse my materials by topic of interest:StrategyManagingClient RelationsCareersGeneral

Passion, People and Principles

Now, That’s Leadership!

post # 255 — December 6, 2006 — a Managing post

I just heard a fabulous presentation on leadership by Craig Weatherup, former Chairman and CEO of The Pepsi Bottling Group.

The group he was presenting to had just spent much of a day debating whether a leader needed to have “charisma” so it was almost a shock for many in the audience to meet this low-key, self-deprecating “down-home” man. He may now own and live in (just as a summer home, mind you) a 110-room mansion formerly owned by the Rockefeller family, but he still comes across primarily as the humble (and loyal) graduate from the regional college (Arizona State) that he also is.

Among his messages was the importance of actually, really, sincerely, “don’t even try to fake it” caring about people. Again and again, he stressed the view that you can only be an effective leader if you view it as a privilege to serve in that role.

Describing various times when he had to lead Pepsi, his employees, his Board, the bottlers, and others through times of change, he said he was only able to bring everyone with him because they trusted him. When asked why he thought people trusted him, he said that he had worked very diligently for all his life to connect with people as individuals, not just people in a role. Just as one small (or not so small) example, he made it his business to talk with fork-lift truck drivers whenever he visited the company’s bottling plants which he did regularly.

People trusted me, he said, because they knew me. They knew I cared about them. You can’t fake that, he said. That’s what gave me the power to lead.



Eric Brown said:

Thanks for sharing this David. It is good to see people like Craig Weatherup in leadership roles. He is absolutely correct…to be an effective leader requires empathy, courage, honesty and trust and you cannot fake any of those qualities.

Many people think that ‘leading’ is telling people what to do when in reality it is really about asking people to help you do what needs to be done for the betterment of an organization. I think Mr. Weatherup’s comment about trust and leadership should be added to the dictionary under the definition of leadership.

posted on December 6, 2006

Erik Mazzone said:

Thanks for the great post, David! A leadership example like Mr. Weatherup’s is inspiring, as well as a superb reminder that leadership is not, first and foremost, a position, but rather an activity. An activity that one can engage in with honesty, principle and connection . . . or as is all too frequently demonstrated, not.

posted on December 6, 2006

Ian Welsh said:

I’d call it common sense. The problem with not talking to the peons, as an executive, is that you lose touch with what’s going on the “floor”, and that allows the people who are between you and the floor to manage up, and thus manage you. A good executive should have contacts at every level of his organization from the lowest grunts to the VPs who report to him. If he doesn’t he has little recourse when he’s treated like a mushroom.

posted on December 6, 2006

Bill Peper said:

For those following the blog who have not totally abandoned reading books, there is an outstanding book on precisely this topic, Leadership and Self-Deception. It is inexpensive, a quick read, and eminently memorable. It is one the few books that I recommend to my client, ad it is the one that has the most impact on them in business and life.

I could not help but think of my maternal grandfather when I read the post. He retired in 1956, and he described himself as the last of a generation of management officias who worked from the lowest job in the company to a high-ranking position. He lamented that the current generation of managers had MBAs but lacked that true knowledge of what life in the trenches was about.

The company did not unionize until after he retired out of personal respect for him. He knew who drank and gambled, and he bailed out his share of employees.

He lived to 92, and he had factory workers visiting his nursing home 25 years ater he retired. The first drink at every company event involving retirees was toasted in honor of my grandfather at least through the time of his death.

Leadership like Gramps’ inspired employees to give readily their discretionary efforts.

posted on December 7, 2006

peter vajda said:

I’ve always remembered the words of a mentor I had in the early stages of my professiona life, “Take an interest in people, and they’ll take an interest in you.” I’ve found this tenet to be one of the foundations of the “servant leadership ” and “benevolent leadership” perspectives. Too, people can readily sense when this interest is feigned, fake, phony and duplicitous.

posted on December 7, 2006

eoecho | Greg Magnus said:

Thanks for the post David. Leaders don’t use advertising campaigns – they are too busy leading by example. I do notice leaders have a tendency to go out of their way to take an interest in others.

posted on December 8, 2006

Campanola said:

I think we could definitely all take a page out of THAT book! What an incredible philosophy– care about people genuinely. That’s a great quality in a leader– sincerity. I don’t see it much any more because people are too concerned with money and not with people and product..


posted on January 19, 2010