The Question A.G.Lafley Didn’t Answer

Unspoken words say more than spoken.

I asked A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter and Gamble, a question he only partially answered. He began with “if” statements but never finished. Here’s how it went down.

“I’m interested in how leading changed you and what you did to navigate those changes.”

A.G. pushed his fingers up under his chin and paused a good while. “If you know yourself … and if you are comfortable being yourself … if you have passion for what you do and know how you add value …”

A.G. didn’t complete the thought.

Finally he added, “The jobs I had were my chance to practice.

What A.G. Lafley didn’t say:

A.G. didn’t say leading changed him. Actually, he implied it hadn’t.

I’m sure A.G. learned many things about leading. You can’t lead a multinational, fortune 500 organization and not be a learner.

However, the implication I took from A.G’s. answer was that leading hadn’t changed him as a person.

Warren Bennis sheds light:

This morning I reached for my copy of Bennis’ seminal work, “On Becoming a Leader.” Bennis says, “… people begin to lead that moment when they decide for themselves how to be.”

He goes on, “… [separate] who you are and who you want to be from what the world thinks you are and wants you to be.”

Why leading didn’t change A.G. Lafley:

I don’t think leading changed A.G. Lafley because he had decided “how to be” before he assumed his leadership role.

A choice:

Leaders spend too much time searching for the next management strategy or leadership technique. The “leadership flavor of the day” dominates them.

Choose “how to be” before seeking strategies and adopting methods.

What are the pros and cons of viewing leadership as a way of being before it is a way of doing?


My exchange with A.G Lafley happened at HSM’s Elite Leadership Program I attended in New York City. It’s was an intimate setting with Jim Collins, A.G. Lafley, Calvin Klein, and Jack Welch.