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November 2010

Story of Appreciation

I heard this story from my cousin Natraj Kumar. It is a touching story but has a powerful message to it. Today is Thanksgiving day. I am thankful to my parents, wonderful family, relatives and friends who have shaped me to be the person I am today. Thanks Kumar for sharing this great story..

One young academically excellent person went to apply for a managerial position in a big company. He passed the first interview, the director did the last interview, made the last decision.


The director discovered from the CV that the youth's academic achievements were excellent all the way, from the secondary school until the postgraduate research, never had a year when he did not score.


The director asked, "Did you obtain any scholarships in school?" the youth answered "none".


The director asked, " Was it your father who paid for your school fees?" The youth answered, "My father passed away when I was one year old, it was my mother who paid for my school fees.


The director asked, " Where did your mother work?" The youth answered, "My mother worked as clothes cleaner. The director requested the youth to show his hands. The youth showed a pair of hands that were smooth and perfect.


The director asked, " Have you ever helped your mother wash the clothes before?" The youth answered, "Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Furthermore, my mother can wash clothes faster than me.


The director said, "I have a request. When you go back today, go and clean your mother's hands, and then see me tomorrow morning."


The youth felt that his chance of landing the job was high. When he went back, he happily requested his other to let him clean her hands. His mother felt strange, happy but with mixed feelings, she showed her hands to the kid.


The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly. His tear fell as he did that. It was the first time he noticed that his mother's hands were so wrinkled, and there were so many bruises in her hands. Some bruises were so painful that his mother shivered when they were cleaned with water.


This was the first time the youth realized that it was this pair of hands that washed the clothes everyday to enable him to pay the school fee. The bruises in the mother's hands were the price that the mother had to pay for his graduation, academic excellence and his future.


After finishing the cleaning of his mother hands, the youth quietly washed all the remaining clothes for his mother.


That night, mother and son talked for a very long time.


Next morning, the youth went to the director's office.


The Director noticed the tears in the youth's eyes, asked: " Can you tell me what have you done and learned yesterday in your house?"


The youth answered, " I cleaned my mother's hand, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes'


The Director asked, " please tell me how you felt about helping your mother."


The youth said, Number 1, I know now what appreciation is. Without my Mother, there would not the successful me today. Number 2, by working together and helping my mother, only I now realize how difficult and tough it is to get something done. Number 3, I have come to appreciate the importance and value of family relationship.


The director said, This is what I am looking for to be my manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life. You are hired.


Later on, this young person worked very hard, and received the respect of his subordinates. Every employee worked diligently and as a team. The company's performance improved tremendously.


A child, who has been protected and habitually given whatever he wanted, would develop "entitlement mentality" and would always put himself first. He would be ignorant of his parent's efforts. When he starts work, he assumes that every person must listen to him, and when he becomes a manager, he would never know the sufferings of his employees and would always blame others. For this kind of people, who may be good academically, may be successful for a while, but eventually would not feel sense of achievement. He will grumble and be full of hatred and fight for more. If we are this kind of protective parents, are we really showing love or are we destroying the kid instead?*


You can let your kid live in a big house, eat a good meal, learn piano, watch a big screen TV. But when you are cutting grass, please let them experience it. After a meal, let them wash their plates and bowls together with their brothers and sisters. It is not because you do not have money to hire a maid, but it is because you want to love them in a right way. You want them to understand, no matter how rich their parents are, one day their hair will grow gray, same as the mother of that young person. The most important thing is your kid learns how to appreciate the effort and experience the difficulty and learns the ability to work with others to get things done.


Power of Association Part -II

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Continuing on power of association, I found an interesting article from Journal of Computational Biology about Obesity which was published last week.

Alison Hill, a graduate student at Harvard and the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology, said the study is based on the idea that obesity can spread like an infectious disease and people can catch it from their friends.

In short, says the study, the more obese people you have contact with, the more obese you are likely to become.

Researchers admit they’re not sure why that is.

Wouldn’t it make sense that we are partly a function of our environment, and that what our friends do influences what we do?

If that is true, consider what else might be infectious:

Success. Napoleon Hill famously recommended being part of a mastermind alliance of like-minded people committed to success.

Character. I would like to quote what Meena commented "Man is judged by the company he consorts."

Energy.  I’ve found I can catch energy from my colleagues and vice-versa.

Are you infectious? What are others catching from you…and you from them?

Power of Association Part -1

-by Karthik Gurumurthy

A Chinese proverb says, “Lie down with a dog, wake up with fleas.” You cannot long escape the effects of the people you associate with. If you insist on associating with a bunch of felons and immoral individuals, you’ll eventually be in trouble with the law or their victim or both. If you hang out at the pool hall every night knocking down a bunch of beers, you can pretty much forget about your dreams of succeeding in life. And if you spend your time with negative, un-happy, do-nothing complainers, that is what you will become.
The flip side is that you can do wondrous things for yourself just by picking the right folks to hang around with. One idea, one suggestion can change your business and your entire life.


Caption for photo: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding and Harvey C. Firestone, 1921
It is well-known that Henry Ford began his business career under the handicap of poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance. It is equally well-known that, within the inconceivably short period of ten years, Mr. Ford mastered these three handicaps, and that within 25 years he turned himself into one of the richest men in America. Add to these facts the additional knowledge that Mr. Ford’s most rapid strides became noticeable at the same time he became a personal friend of Thomas A. Edison, and you will begin to understand what the influence of one mind upon another can accomplish.

I barely passed my final exam in Math when I was in IX grade and I was promoted to my X grade (sophomore) with warning. I am thankful to all my friends who were smarter than me and pushed me to perform better.  I am particularly thankful to Susi (Dr. Sudarsanam) who really stretched me to do well. I have always valued power of association and have always surrounded people who are smarter than me. I heard from someone," the person you will be five years from now depends on the people you meet (on a regular basis) and the good books you read".

Why do Presentations and Speeches Fail?

This article was written by Mark Sanborn who is an international best selling author and noted for his work in bringing the best from people in leadership. I have benefited quite a bit from this article and I strongly feel that if we watch out for these areas, we can be rest assured our speeches and presentations would deliver the goods. Enjoy!


There are seven common reasons why an executive’s presentations and speeches fail:

1. Disregard for time
2. Unclear purpose
3. Inadequate preparation
4. Failure to capture attention
5. Pomposity
6. Boredom
7. False endings

1. Disregard for time

  • History has no record of anyone who gave a speech that was too short.
  • Speaking too long or taking more time than allotted, seems to be epidemic among high level business leaders.  Many executives completely destroy agendas.
  • The length of a presentation shouldn’t be a function of title or power. If you agreed to ten minutes, do it – especially if you’re a leader.
  • When you start and finish on time, your audience will respect you more and it will prove that you respect them.

2. Unclear purpose

  • The million dollar question of any presentation is: What’s the point?
  • Executives without clear objectives for their presentation usually achieve little.
  • Begin by asking yourself: “At the end of this presentation, what do I want listeners to think, feel and do?”  Good presenters speak to the head, the heart and the hands. Challenging people using lots of information with limited practical application is more frustrating than inspiring.
  • If someone else is writing your speech, it is critical that the speech writer have access to you and your ideas. Your speech will only be written as well as the input you provide.

3. Inadequate preparation

  • The best speakers are always prepared for what they say, even if their demeanor suggests otherwise.
  • You can tell when speakers haven’t prepared – they don’t say anything important. To make best use of your time and the audience’s time, think through and practice what you’ll say.  If you saw a Broadway show in which the actors hadn’t rehearsed, you would demand a refund.

4. Failure to capture attention

  • The scarcest resource in the world used to be time; today it is attention.  What you say and how you say it had better grab the audience’s attention immediately. In the theater, you’ll never see an actor warm-up on the audience. They warm-up backstage.
  • Ensure your remarks are relevant. Post moderns are less interested with the question “Is it true?” and more interested in the question “How does it affect me?” Never forget to prove that your message matters to the listener.

5. Pomposity

  • Impressing people is, for the most part, a head-game and it changes their opinions of us. Influencing people is a behavioral game: it changes what people do because of us.
  • A preoccupation with self is deadly. Self-absorbed speakers present to get their needs met, rather than meeting the needs of the audience. The audience instantly recognizes it.
  • One of the best kept secrets in speaking is: The audience wants you to do well.
  • You wouldn’t be speaking unless someone believed that you have credibility, and something significant to say.

6. Boredom

  • Presentation and perception go hand-in-hand. Entertaining in itself is not a worthwhile goal for an executive presenter, but it sure beats “boring”.
  • “Amusement” comes from two words meaning “not to ponder.” “Entertainment”, on the other hand, is engaging. The value of entertainment for a speaker is that it mentally engages listeners.
  • Telling a joke is risky. When it fails, nothing fails worse.

7. False endings

  • Here’s a simple rule to remember: A good ending happens only once.
  • Each false ending weakens the message that preceded it

From Making Cabinets to Making Millions: How Harrison Ford Grew into a Star

Quoted from Leadership Wired by Dr. John C.  Maxwell

As a college junior, Harrison Ford decided to take a drama course in the hopes of meeting girls. Sure enough, a love affair ensued, only not of the variety Ford had envisioned. Rather than falling for a beautiful woman, he fell in love with acting.

Like so many aspiring actors before and after him, Ford traveled to Los Angeles in the hopes of launching a career in Hollywood. However, he found the industry difficult to enter. While he was hired for acting jobs, he appeared only in small, often unaccredited roles and seldom received a speaking part.

After five or six years, Harrison Ford was tired of performing in obscurity and in need of more steady income to support his family. Having ability as a craftsman, he took up carpentry. He worked as a stagehand for rock group, The Doors, and did odd jobs for many of the people he had met while acting in Los Angeles. One day, a man named George hired him to build cabinets. While making the cabinets Ford became acquainted with his customer who turned out to be movie director, George Lucas. Upon learning that Ford was an actor, Lucas gave him the opportunity to audition for a role in his upcoming film American Graffiti. Ford won the part, a prominent supporting role and his biggest performance to date.

After acting in American Graffiti, Ford parlayed his carpentry skill into more on-screen opportunities. Francis Ford Coppola (director of The Godfather) cast Harrison Ford in a minor role in his 1974 film, The Conversation, after Ford had helped him with an office expansion project. However, it was Ford's relationship with George Lucas that opened the door to stardom. In 1975, Lucas hired him to read lines for a space adventure screenplay. Impressed by Ford's talent Lucas cast him as major character Han Solo in Star Wars (1977). The movie, one of the highest grossing films of all-time, was a smashing success and Harrison Ford's performance was a big reason why.

Collaboration between Ford and Lucas continued in future years with the production of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983). The duo also worked together on three installments of the widely popular Indiana Jones movies in the 1980s. Amazingly, what had begun as an arrangement to build cabinets turned into one of the most lucrative partnerships in American film history!

Personal Growth Lessons from the Life Story of Harrison Ford

1) Be Open to Acquiring New Skills

When Harrison Ford wasn't going anywhere as an actor, he found another avenue to exercise his talents-carpentry. Although he didn't have formal training as a carpenter, Ford diligently worked to gain competence at his new craft. His success in acquiring a new skill not only helped him provide for his family, it positioned him to meet George Lucas.

2) Keep Growing Because You Never Know When Your Opportunity Will Appear

One would assume that Harrison Ford battled feelings of failure when he put his acting career on hold to make cabinets. His dream wasn't to be woodworking in the shop; it was to be performing on stage. Yet despite his disappointment, Ford kept hope alive and stayed sharp as an actor. When George Lucas gave him the opportunity to audition for American Graffiti, Ford was ready, and he won the part.

3) Honing Your People Skills Can Reap Big Dividends

Something about Harrison Ford caught the eye for George Lucas. I'm not sure if it was Ford's charisma, his passion for acting, or his skill as a craftsman. Whatever the reason, the key lesson is that Harrison Ford forged a relational connection with George Lucas. He conducted himself in such a way that George Lucas wanted to see him succeed and decided to give him a shot. Whether you're on the doorstep of your dream or a million miles off course from where you'd hoped to be, improving your people skills is a wise move that will attract opportunities to you.

Words to live by

-Karthik Gurumurthy


On the occasion of his graduation from elementary school, young John Wooden received a piece of paper from his father, Joshua. On one side his father had copied a short verse, later summed up by his son in these few words: “Think clearly, have love in your heart, be honest, and trust in God.” On the other side he had handwritten a list of “Seven Things to Do.” As he handed the paper to the boy, he said only, “Son, try and live up to these things.” The paper remained in the young man’s possession until it was tattered, at which point he transferred its contents to a card.

In a 2005 interview, the coach shared how much the words had framed his daily life. He said, “I tried to live by this and I tried to teach by it. I haven’t always been perfect, but I’ve tried.”

Here are Joshua Wooden’s seven principles for daily living:

  • Be true to yourself.

Who am I? When no one’s around, who am I? I’m talking about my character, not my reputation. My character is who I really am, while my reputation is merely what others think I am. Are they different? Are there secrets and flaws I don’t want anyone to know about? Have I led people to believe I am better than I am? They say, “You can fool everyone else but you can’t fool yourself.” I’m not sure if that’s true. I can rationalize my flaws and my secrets. I can fool myself.

If I want to be true to myself, me and myself need to have a talk and get things out in the open and on the table so they can be dealt with. “Hey, you know that habit you have? Aren’t you tired of hiding it? Aren’t you tired of knowing, at the end of the day, you’re not the person they think you are?  Then do something about it.”

The foundational, and first, step to living a meaningful and productive life that is an example for others to follow, is to be true to yourself. If this trait is not in place, somewhere down the line, you will fall by the wayside.

  • Help others.

It has been said, “You cannot love others until you can love yourself.” When you are true to yourself, you will love yourself. Now you are ready to love others. Now you are ready to begin a life of meaning and purpose.

A woman was planning a trip to see her friend in another state. Just before leaving home for the train, she telephoned her friend to make sure everything was in order. She asked, “Who will pick me up at the train station?”

Her friend said, “My husband will.”

“But,” the woman said, “I’ve never met him. How will I know who he is?”

Her friend replied, “Oh, that’s easy. He’ll be the one helping someone.”

That husband had a good reputation but, more importantly, he had a life of meaning because he made a difference. The life of purpose, significance, and meaning always involves helping others. 

  • Make each day your masterpiece.

A life of meaning and purpose, a life that others notice and follow, is a day-to-day consistent life.
It is no accident life is divided into increments we call, “days.” Yesterdays are happy memories and lessons learned. Tomorrow is only a faint promise, at best. It is today, that I have and, in order to live a meaningful and productive life, each day must be treasured and taken full advantage of. From the moment I get up to the moment I lay my head down again, I must try to make that day a masterpiece.

The Mona Lisa, The David, and The Night Watch are masterpieces because each ounce of paint or marble contributes, as much as it can, to the beauty and perfection. Likewise, a masterpiece day is one where each minute is spent doing only the things that are important such as in the morning, talking to your loved one over breakfast, reading the paper, perhaps doing a crossword; at your job, being organized, focused to get as much good work done as possible and earning your pay; and in the evening, reading to a child, having friends over, or counseling someone that needs help.

How many days remain in your life? Hopefully you have a lot and that means it’s a going to be a long journey. According to Joshua Wooden’s creed, in order to consistently, day-by-day, try to make each day a masterpiece, you’re going to need help from three outside sources: Those that have gone before you, Close friends, and God.

  • Drink deeply from good books.

On your journey to a meaningful and productive life, if you look carefully to the side of the road, you will see Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Lincoln, Gandhi, Washington, Edison and more. Through their writings, and the writings about them, they have left a blueprint to show you the way.

Every day, stop and sit fireside with each one and not only hear, but listen. Drink deeply by analyzing, understanding, believing, and swallowing all the advice they give you. Their wisdom will help you live masterpiece day after masterpiece day. 

  • Make friendship a fine art.

Strong friendships are carefully built. When the creed says to make friendship a “fine art,” it means you must work at it daily with the goal of making it something beautiful. Friendships are built through consistent interaction, give and take, and listening. They are deepened by accountability, truth, and understanding.

The wisdom of those that have gone before you and the support of your close friends, will help. But the greatest strength that will help you sustain a life-long string of consecutive days where you attempt to make masterpieces, is God. He will give you the faith to believe.

  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.

Pretty self-explanatory…however, I don’t think Wooden means this literally.

A shelter could be physical, financial or emotional…family and friendship, afterall, are perhaps the most valuable shelter to be building in your life.

  • Pray for guidance, and count and give thanks for your blessings every day

No day can be a masterpiece day if it doesn’t end with acknowledging your blessings and asking for guidance. Thanks acknowledges to God and you, that He is responsible. Asking for guidance and counsel is important because, while you sleep, God is preparing to help you make the next day, another Masterpiece.

What we can learn from Zig Ziglar

-Karthik Gurumurthy


One of my favorite self-help books is "See you at the top". It was written by Zig Ziglar. Zig Ziglar is an American author, salesperson and a motivational speaker.

Sometimes, a simple quote can change the way you see something, and that is what Zig Ziglar does so well.

With all that said, enjoy the quotes below and think about how you can apply them to your own life. Is there something that can be improved? What steps can you take today to improve what you already have?

    • "You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."  Being selfish in life might make you happy in the short-term, but sooner or later you’ll realize that what really matters is helping others. It is what brings joy into your life and gets you up in the morning. I am by no means saying to neglect yourself, because if you do not help yourself, you cannot help others, so there’s always a fine line of balance.


    • "The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal theirs." Everyone has at least one gift and one passion in this life, usually more. Sometimes we’re blind to what’s in front of us, and we need someone else to point out the obvious.It took me a long time to realize that I really liked writing. Writing is something that comes naturally to me, and I love it. If it is one of my riches I do not know, but for now it certainly seems like it.


    • "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude." It is not your inherent ability that determines your success, but your attitude. I’ve seen people have everything delivered to them on a silver platter and fail miserably. They gave up at the first sign of trouble. I’ve also seen people succeed with very little. If you’re determined to succeed, you won’t stop until you do.


    • "Every choice you make has an end result." What kind of choices are you making today, and how will they affect your life one day, one month, one year, or ten years from now?Are you constantly avoiding going after your passion because you’re afraid of what might happen? Are you waiting for the stars to align so you can go after your dreams? The decisions you make today are the ones that shape your life, so choose wisely.


    • "If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost." I failed a lot before I succeeded and started making a living from my online business. Although failing hurts, I no longer look at it as defeat. I learn from each failure, and from each mistake I make.It may not be obvious what I’m learning all the time, but sooner or later it dawns on me. When you’re starting out with anything new, such as going after your passion and your dreams, you will make a lot of mistakes, and it will feel like you’re failing, but in reality, you’re making progress.


    • "If you wait until all the lights are "green" before you leave home, you'll never get started on your trip to the top." This is an excellent quote, because a lot of people want to wait until things are perfect until they start going after their dreams. If you’re one of them, you most likely will be waiting your whole life. If you want to do something other than you’re doing now, then go after it, and start doing it in any little way you can. Stop waiting for permission. Stop waiting for things to work out. Start doing what you can do today, conquer your fears and take things from there.


  • "Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful." Adversity doesn’t feel nice, but it is sometimes just what you need in order to be successful. We don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t really see that today’s adversity is tomorrow’s success.Don’t judge the mistakes you make, the failures you have and the adversity you run into, because you never know if all of those things lead to something wonderful.

My wife Shobana and I felt that we should have read this book in high school. What you get from the book is nothing but Golden nuggets of wisdom which you can implement it every single day!

What we can learn from Steve Jobs

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Everyday I meet someone who talks about one of their toys (made by Apple) and they are so proud that they own it. (I am one of them too:)) They are proud to show off what it can do and their passion is so contagious that they create a need in you that you have to have it. The economy might be slow to recover but I don't see a dearth of customers for Iphone or Ipad. That is the buzz that Steve Jobs has created. What can we learn from this bounceback entrepreneur so that we can implement it in our business?


  • Think differently about your vision. Jobs attracts like-minded people who share his vision and who help turn his ideas into world-changing innovations. Passion fuels Apple’s rocket, and Job’s vision creates destination.
  • Think differently about how you think. Innovation does not exist without creativity, and for Steve Jobs, creativity is the act of connecting things. Jobs believes that a broad set of experiences broadens our understanding of the human experience.
  • Think differently about your customers. To  Steve Jobs, people who buy Apple products are not “consumers.” They are people with dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Jobs builds products to help them fulfill their dreams. "Some people think you've got to be crazy to buy a Mac. But in that craziness, we see genius" says Jobs. To summarize,  Sell dreams, not products.
  • Say No to actions/ideas which do not align with your end goal.  Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, according to Jobs. From the designs of the iPod to the iPhone, from the packaging of Apple’s products to the functionality of the Apple website, innovation means eliminating the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Jobs: "I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do."
  • Think differently about your brand experience. Jobs has made Apple Stores the gold standard in customer service. The Apple Store has become the world’s best retailer by introducing simple innovations any business can adopt to make deep, lasting emotional connections with its customers. Use analogies or metaphors to think about a problem. By finding the similarities between two things that are unalike, your brain makes new and sometimes profound connections.
  • Think differently about your story. Jobs is the preeminent corporate storyteller, turning product launches into an art form. You can have the most innovative idea in the world, but if you cannot get people excited about it, your innovation doesn’t matter. Make your brand story consistent across all platforms: presentations, website, advertising, marketing materials, social media.
  • Finally confidence is a key to innovation. Jobs told Stanford graduates, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” How you think about yourself and your business will have the greatest impact on the creation of new ideas that will grow your business and improve the lives of your customers.


Power of Pushing and having an Version update

-Karthik Gurumurthy

From time to time, when we start our computer, we are prompted to update the software. A software update provides bug fixes and minor software enhancements and is made available by free download. Software updates sometimes include new drivers to support the latest hardware such as printers, CD drives and DVD drives. Lot of times when we don't follow these, some of the programs come to a stand-still. Same thing applies to our life. It is very vital to make the changes we need to make in order to move on in life.

I interact with lot of young children almost on a day-to-day basis. They are famous for asking "Why?". And our initial answer does not suffice. "Why are we doing this way, Why not that way?" is usually followed up with a second and third "why?"."Why" is the motivator. Continually asking "why" is the way we cut through the clutter of our existence and drill down deep enough to move from great to best and transform into right.

One of my favorite movies is Miracle. This is a true story based on how young US hockey team won the experienced tough Russian team at the Olympics in 1980. When the young team won, Herb Brooks, the coach of the team was asked why they were able to beat the odds and go all the way. He said, "The ones who said we weren't good enough- that we were too small, not strong enough, not fast enough, and couldn't learn the European style of play in such a short period of time- were proved wrong. Wrong, not because they misjusdged our abilities. Our  abilities deserved seventh place. They were wrong because of the 'intangibles.' How can you measure desire, commitment, faith, passion and courage? They weren't able to measure those 'whys.' You ask why we won. We asked ourselves, "why not?"

If we refuse to change we become obsolete. I don't know anyone whom I know and admire who really wants to be an obsolete entrepreneur, coach, parent or friend. No one I know and respect wants to be stagnant or remain ignorant.  I have had chance to interact with lot of entrepreneurs and teachers. Many of these are guilty of this. Lot of times it is easier to change the audience than to change the speech. Some educators know they change students, so why change lessons or teaching techniques they've used since they were student teachers? We have people forget the Native American adage, "Short time alive, long time dead."

Too many people think that if they could just change jobs, get a raise, change neighborhoods, change their body, or change their significant other, they would finally be happy. Maybe, maybe not. But if we wait for change, it might not come. We need to take change into our own hands. What I learned from my coaches is that change from the inside out is proactive and creates power that allows us to improve and become more of who already are. What we haven't accentuated is the reason it gives us power.

What your role model cannot do..

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I was reading the book " 8th habit" by Steven Covey.  It is a must-read book where Steven Covey talks about Character and Competence.  General Schwarzkopf address at the US Military academy says it all.


 “I've met a lot of leaders in the Army who were competent, but they didn't have character. And for every job they did well, they sought reward in the form of promotions, in the form of awards and decorations, in the form of getting ahead at the expense of someone else, in the form of another piece of paper that awarded them another degree, a sure road to the top.

You see, these were competent people, but they lacked character. I've also met a lot of leaders who had superb character but who lacked competence. They weren't willing to pay the price of leadership, to go the extra mile because that’s what it took to be a great leader.

And that’s sort of what it’s all about. To lead in the 21st century – to take soldiers, sailors, airmen into battle, you will be required to have both character and competence.” And this is the challenge for leaders today.

A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head.
- Vance Hainer

Developing leaders can read the latest books, attend trendy conferences, and attend seminars, but at the end of the day, the great leadership speakers and writers cannot do anything for you until you take action for yourself. I have identified five specific things your role models cannot do for you and why this is good.

Role Models can’t speak with your voice. And this is the challenge for emerging leaders - to speak in their own voice. For years I have looked to and benefited from leadership role models. And as influential as they have been, I would never be fulfilled as a leader if I lost my own voice in the process.

As you develop your leadership skills it is imperative not to lose your voice. Benjamin Disraeli said, “There is no index of character so sure as the voice.” Great leaders don’t speak with your voice nor do they speak with your passion. Own it. Develop it. And speak it.

Role Models can’t pay your dues. Role Models/Mentors can challenge you, motivate you, inspire you, and help you renew your sense of purpose. They can impart hope and encourage you to fight another day. And as wonderful as these things are, you still have to take your personal journey in the school of leadership.

Your development as a leader evolves the way it does for all of us – through life experiences and paying your dues. Albert Einstein said, “There is only one road to true human greatness: through the school of hard knocks.” Take solace from the great leaders who have walked the trail before you, but understand that their dues are not transferable.

Role Models can’t see your dreams. Your mentors/Role models can motivate and encourage you to pursue your dreams. They can give you formulas based on their successes and failures that can give you wisdom in your daily decisions. But you alone are the guardian of your dreams and what is required to turn them into reality.

Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” You see what the great leaders cannot. Hold true to your dreams and valiantly pursue them.

Role Models can’t feel with your heart. Personal leadership is not just a product of what is in your head, but what is in your heart. Your leadership is manifest in ways that heal, inspire, build, promote, and touch your world in ways unknown to great leaders. Your mentors/role models can show you the tools, but you are the one who must use them to create a masterpiece.

Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” And this is the power of your dreams and who will be touched by your leadership.

Role models can’t reach your potential. Your influence as a leader exists by maximizing your gifts and abilities where you are planted. To the extent that there are things your mentors cannot do for you, you are in the driver’s seat as you fulfill your purpose as a leader.

As you speak with your own voice, pay your dues, see with your eyes, feel with your heart, and reach your potential, you will achieve a level of success that is worthy of distinction. This is where all great leaders begin.