5 May 2010
Ken Blanchard is one of the world’s most influential figures on leadership and management. He is a sought-after author, speaker and business consultant on the topic.
His book “The One Minute Manager’ co-authored with Spencer Johnson has sold more than 13 million copies. He has co-authored over 50 books including: Raving Fans, Gung Ho, Whale Done, Leading at a Higher Level, Know Can Do and The One Minute Entrepreneur among others.
His success as an author has seen him inducted into the Amazon Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time.
While he has received many awards and honours for his contributions in the field of management, a little known fact is that he received The Thought Leadership award by Association of Learning Providers.
I interviewed him about his views on thought leadership and he had some great insights to share with some handy hints and tips for aspiring thought leaders.
1. Ken, as a pre-eminent global thought leader on leadership and management what tips can you give other aspiring thought leaders?
The first thing you have to do is to determine your leadership point of view—your thoughts about leading and motivating people. Your leadership point of view relates to who you are as an individual. It grows out of who influenced you, what your purpose is, what your values are, and what people can expect from you. This is important because research has shown that the most effective leaders have a clear leadership point of view and they’re willing to share it with others.
2. What are the key differentiators that have positioned you as one of the world’s most sought after experts on your topic?
I really don’t know. I think my popularity is more the result of a blessing I’ve received than a strategy I’ve implemented. I guess I’ll have to leave that question for others to answer.
3. Are there any defining moments that signaled when you broke through the ranks of the thousands of other ‘experts’ on management and leadership and became a ‘go to’ person and a thought leader in your space?
Without a doubt, William Morrow’s 1982 publication of the book I wrote with Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager, was the event that drew a lot of attention to me and the work I’d been doing in the leadership arena. The publication of several other bestsellers—Leadership and the One Minute Manager, Raving Fans, Gung Ho! and others—also helped to establish my name as a thought leader.
4. You have written and co-authored 45 books and have been inducted into the Amazon Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time. How important have these books been in positioning you as a thought leader? And, what advice would you give to companies striving to become thought leaders in their sector where a book may not necessarily be appropriate?
Actually, I think I’ve co-authored more than 50 books at this point, but who’s counting? All kidding aside, as I said earlier, the books have probably been instrumental in establishing the Blanchard name. I want to emphasize here that with the exception of a couple of books, I do all my writing with coauthors. I’ve had the privilege to work with an amazing assortment of writers and they all deserve a lot of credit for their contributions.
As for how to become a thought leader in a sector where publishing a book is not feasible: I suggest that people use all the other forms of information technology available to get their message out—film, radio, blogs, television, newspapers, etc. You can also be so good at what you do that your customers become your sales and marketing team. A good reputation and word-of-mouth advertising is more effective than most marketing campaigns. The bottom line, though, is that you have to get the word out somehow. You can have the greatest, most innovative thoughts in the world, but if nobody hears about them, they’re worth squat.
5. You have been quoted as saying: “I absolutely believe in the power of tithing and giving back. My own experience about all the blessings I’ve had in my life is that the more I give away, the more that comes back. That is the way life works, and that is the way energy works.” This seems to be the antithesis to the culture in a lot of businesses today where the focus is more on holding information, knowledge and insights close their chests. Is this your experience, and if so, how do you believe companies can overcome this?
I think it’s sad that some people still don’t know that their role as leaders is to serve, not to be served. The truth is, if you want love, you have to give it away. If you want money, you have to give it away. If you want success, you have to give it away. We’ve found over the years that when you focus only on success, you will never reach significance, and that’s where the real results and satisfaction are. But if you focus on significance—generosity, service, and loving relationships—you’ll be amazed at how much success will come your way. Take Mother Teresa. She couldn’t have cared less about accumulating wealth, recognition, and status. Her whole life was focused on significance. And what happened? Success came her way. Her ministry received tremendous financial backing, she was recognized all over the world, and she was given the highest status wherever she went. She was the ultimate servant leader. If you focus on significance first, your emphasis will be on people. Through that emphasis, success and results will follow.
6. In a world where content is readily available and easily accessible at the click of a mouse what will be the key things that differentiate companies/ products/ brands in the eyes of their target audiences over the next decade?
What sets companies/products/brands apart is delivering Legendary Service. This goes way beyond merely good customer service. It’s service that’s so outstanding that it inspires customers to tell stories about your company. The best companies in any industry—for example Southwest Airlines in the airline industry, Chick-fil-A in the quick service restaurant industry, and Nordstrom in retail—have empowered their employees to make decisions on a day-to-day basis that serve customers at the highest level. These frontline people are not bogged down at the bottom of a red-tape filled management hierarchy. They can use their brains and creativity to make customers happy. That gives energy to the whole organization, and it’s what creates the kind of legendary reputation that sets a company apart.
7. Are there any companies or campaigns that stand out for their thought leadership?
I just mentioned one: Southwest Airlines. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest, and Colleen Barrett, the president emeritus, had a clear vision of what they wanted their organization to be. They designed the company around three values: Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-Loving Attitude. Southwest is the only airline company that has made money year after year and it’s because they value their people as much as their profits, and they know how to treat people right.