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Radical Leadership Session with Dr. Steve Schmidt

Radical Leadership Session with Dr. Steve Schmidt

The heart of an organization is its culture composed of the hearts of the employees and primarily influenced by the hearts of the leaders.  For each of us, our life’s compass heading is driven by the values residing in our heart. These values can be broken into two major categories:


1) Values focused on others are referred to as WE values

2) Values focused on ourselves are referred to as ME values.


If we desire to reach our full potential, we must strive to be equally concerned about ourselves and others. Sigmund Freud validated this philosophy when he said that the two most important things in life are love (a WE focus) and work. Abraham Maslow taught us that there are two basic healthy ME needs; physiological and security. However, Maslow’s next major human need is relationships, a WE focus. He goes on to imply that we cannot be self-fulfilled without relationships. Stephen Covey said we cannot improve processes until we improve relationships. Jack Welch in his new book, The Real-Life MBA, says the two most important values for leaders to pursue are truth and trust. These are WE values!


When leaders as individuals are more concerned about themselves than the people they lead, they create a MEism culture which is lacking truth and trust. This weak culture can be identified as one with poor communication, fear of telling the truth, poor conflict resolution, poor relationships, low levels of employee engagement, lack of teamwork, lack of trust, etc. Most organizations and government agencies have some degree of this type culture and many are drowning in it. Unfortunately, many leaders are in denial.


Until leaders becomes aware of their own MEism there can be no real change. It will take courageous leaders to identify their own behavior flaws and work on them. When positive personal change takes place at the top, the hearts of the leaders can then have a positive influence on the hearts of the people and ultimately on the heart of the organization-it's culture.


The problem in most organizations are leaders who are deceived because “fear of knowing the truth” keeps them from taking a good hard look at themselves. In addition, they surround themselves with advisors unable or too afraid to help the leaders complete a valid self-assessment. The sad thing is that most people in an organization know what their leaders need to change but no one feels safe to tell them the truth. In this environment, 360-degree feedback fails. Without a WE focused heart any leadership style will be perceived as mechanical and self-serving resulting in an unhealthy culture. 


From my experiences helping create Six Sigma at Motorola and rolling it out for the world’s first black belts and master black belts at Motorola, Texas Instruments, General Electric, Sony, Shimano, Raytheon, Abbott Labs, HEB and dozens of others, Six Sigma was initially very successful.  However, over time the implementation of Six Sigma has been less rigorous and recent business literature is full of articles that have studied the failure rates of Strategic Planning, Project Management, Lean Six Sigma and Employee Engagement. Most articles claim that failure rates are above 50%*. The majority of these failures are due to weak cultures. Many failures are attributed to lack of radical or breakthrough type goals. These failures are also due to weak cultures.


In the past some great CEOs have led their organizations through radical positive changes in technology and process improvement. Today many are incorporating disruptive innovation which concentrates on radical change in their business model. Yet, very few CEOs have focused on building a solid foundation needed for lasting change- the culture. Not many MBA curriculums emphasize personal development, leadership and building strong WEism cultures. There is a desperate need for radical positive change; yet, few have the courage to tackle what is really required to execute: leaders committed to radical self-assessment followed by radical positive personal change.


To make radical positive change we must consider the following tenets:

1) The heart of an organization is its culture, composed of the hearts of the people and primarily influenced by the hearts of the leaders

2) Most leaders are in denial of their true behavioral weaknesses

3) Great leaders are willing to carefully assess their behavior weaknesses and seriously work on radical positive change

4) Every organization has signs of a weak culture and needs improvement

5) Radical Excellence is not a destination; rather, it is a journey pursuing WEism (genuine teamwork) while overcoming MEism (all about me).


With these common beliefs the next breakthrough in the pursuit of organizational excellence will undoubtedly be focused on personal and cultural development where "WE is better than ME" becomes a core value. This will require Courageous Leadership because it starts at the top and cannot be delegated.


Successfully executing Courageous Leadership is a delicate process primarily because most leaders are fragile and do not willingly accept input to their weaknesses. Many times these leaders don’t receive this input because they are powerful in their roles.  For this reason, well trained and experienced coaches plus proven self-assessment tools are needed to assist the leader in their personal development.



*“Creating the Office of Strategic Management,” Kaplan & Norton,

Harvard Business Review 2005

* “Where Process Improvement Projects Go Wrong,” Chakravorty, The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2010.

* “State of the Workplace,” Gallup Survey, 2016

* “Women Want Close Relationships at Work,” Business Journal, December 14, 2016


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