Leadership, Resources

Who do you have Breakfast with?

Once a year, at a conference for foundation leaders, I get to have breakfast with Fred Smith Jr. He is one of the clearest thinkers, most generous mentors, and best connected leaders I’ve been spoiled to connect with. Breakfast with Fred is a highlight for me every spring. Fred Smith Breakfast with Fred is also the name of a book and weekly email that feature the wisdom of Fred’s father, Fred Smith Sr. Here’s an excerpt from today’s email:

Robbins and Myra: “Say a word about leadership” Fred Smith:  Recently, I looked at an organization with problems.  I asked the board, “Is our lead horse strong enough to pull the wagon?” “No,” they answered. “Okay,” I said, “where is the one we need?” We then went out and found who we needed and turned the organization around.  I could have approached it differently.  I could have said, “ This man we have is a sincere, fine person, and with enough help, he just might make it.”  But that would have meant pulling with him for five years before admitting he couldn’t do it.  Think of the time and effort wasted. Good leaders don’t jeopardize the well-being of the organization by avoiding tough decisions.  The earlier you make the call, the sooner you reduce the loss. While talking to a banker, I asked,” What do you think about when you make a loan?”  “I always think, “ he responded, “never delay a failure with my money.” Robbins and Myra: “What is an example of your system?” Smith: My goal is to accomplish flexibility and free time for multiple activities.  I call this the “essence approach.”  When a logger clears a jam, he climbs a tall tree, locates the key log, blows it out, and lets the stream do the rest.  Amateurs start at the edge of the jam, move all the logs, eventually freeing the key log.  Of course, both work, but one is much more effective – and efficient.  Almost all problems have a key log if we learn to find it. I try to decide what I’m trying to do, what it takes to do it, and who I can get to do it better than I can. Robbins and Myra: “You have achieved a great deal in your life.  How did you find the time?” Smith:  Those of us with visible activities may appear to do more, but I doubt it.  Frankly, I thought you might ask me why I have done so little, considering Wesley, Napoleon, Churchill, et al.  Look what they did with their 24 hours. Blaming a “lack of time” is too often an excuse for people Usefulness and helpfulness are my measures of time, not how much it looks like I do.  If I identify my uniqueness, then conscientiously apply my time and energies to it, achievement follows…not just activity. This week think about: 1) What is my definition of leadership? 2) How can I apply the “essence approach” to a current problem? 3) Who needs to hear about making tough decisions? Words of Wisdom: “I try to decide what I’m trying to do, what it takes to do it, and who I can get to do it better than I can.”