The Secret to Powerful Leadership

It’s the morning after and it wasn’t what I heard but what I saw that matters most.

I’m home from the two-day Elite Leadership Program in New York City. The drive home gave me time to think about what I heard. Believe me, A.G. Lafley, Calvin Klein, and Jack Welch hit home runs.

Lafley led Proctor & Gamble from 2000 to 2009. Under his leadership sales doubled and profits quadrupled.

Calvin Klein built a global brand from nothing and sold it for something between 600 and 700 million.

Jack Welch is a fiery stutterer from Massachusetts who led G.E. to earnings in excess of 20% a year for 20 consecutive years. (Jack seldom stutters these days.)

Not what I heard

Over the two days, I heard terrific stories and powerful leadership principles. But, in a small venue you can do more than hear, you can see. I saw three wildly unique individuals.

  • A.G. was quiet and wore jeans.
  • Calvin is a control freak who told stories and never unbuttoned his jacket.
  • Jack Welch is a fire-cracker who sprinkled his remarks with the occasional “hell of a…”

They were all incredible. But don’t try to be like them.

Imitating others is tragic. Certainly we can learn. But, first and foremost, they brought themselves to the fundamental leadership principles they explained.


When Calvin Klein began telling his story I inwardly groaned. I’m not into fashion. By the end I was on the edge of my seat.

I mentioned Klein was a control freak. He said, “I was involved in every detail.” It’s the sheer force of his person not leadership techniques that built a global brand.

Techniques are important and useful but your power is in your person.


Today’s leadership encouragement is simple. Stop trying to be someone else and be yourself. Stopping opens the door to beginning.

Where is the line between copying what others do and being yourself? How do you determine that line?


Thank you to the leadership at HSM for inviting me to attend the ELP. It was the best two days of leadership development I ever experienced.

Note: Jim Collins also presented at ELP. Jim told me he didn’t think of himself as a leader so I left him off this post. We can discuss whether Collins is a leader another day.