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.
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.
That is some deep stuff but very true. If you want to succeed in doing something is there anyway to do it without being first? I am beginning to learn that answers are often times very simple and maybe we think and study too much because that is what we or maybe others think we should do. Being passionate about your vocation is what we all should do and putting that passion to work is not really work and therefore is part of our being.
I am not sure that rambling made any sense but I have been hit from several different angles in the last 24 hours about finding what I am passionate about and I think God is trying to tell me something and I am on the right track.
Thank you so much for the post.
Well, it was not rambling…it was clarity…God is certainly helping you. Thanks for sharing. Very clear.
Great post Dan. Leadership starts on the inside. Reminds me of William Penn’s quote: “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”
Well Dan, you see there are known knowns, and then there are unknown knowns, then there are the knowns that we know about and the unknowns that we know don’t know about but do not know how they are applied in the known world or something like that, aka Donald Rumsfield.
In the words of my blessed Mother …. Shut up Don and eat your oatmeal!
Personally I don’t know if leadership will ever apply to me other than my grandchildren. But I do know this … No one ever got anywhere following a parked car.
As Dan would say, ‘ka-ching!’
Aren’t many jobs more important than leading grandchildren. And I once rode my bike into a parked car, which got me a trip to the ER, so I guess that proves your final point.
As an employee, I have unfortunately, run into a lot of leaders like this – they have adopted a leadership style at some point & have never deviated from it. I’m sure, at some point, it may have worked for them or they wouldn’t have stuck with it. What gets me most is when they espouse the idea they have changed with the times, when all they’ve really done is attend the mandatory seminars & changed the words they use, but not their leadership style.
I have also had some great leaders who have truly changed their leadership style to adampt to the way people work now. They are innovative, open to new ideas & processes. They are much easier to work for (or should I say work with) than leaders who don’t want to know. They inspire you to do your best, to reach for the stars & keep growing. Thanks to all the leaders who are secure enough with themselves to adapt as times change.
Dan, you had me thinking this morning. That’s always good. The takeaway for me is in the “knowing” of yourself. Having a rudder to steer the ship certainly allows you to get where you are going with greater clarity and focus.
In the end, however, I would say that leadership changed me. If I think of all the ways I experienced leadership – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually I would say the greatest change was in building capacity in each of those areas as various challenges were experienced and handled, or not. This changed me and my leadership over time…even if it didn’t change the core of my character.
I understand the moral/character context of what you are saying through your conversation with A.G. Lafley, I just wanted to add another perspective.
Thanks for covering where I was heading Jim.
It is that commitment to lifelong learning in all of those arenas, saying that each of those cups will never fill and as they fill, we share. If you are not growing, you are static, you are stagnant.
(I did briefly also go with Don on how long it takes me to learn that I do not know what I don’t know what I thought I knew…different side of the coin. Need more coffee for that one.)
Jim, I agree. To me it’s kind of like the old joke about how to sculpt a horse: you get a block of marble and knock away everything that doesn’t look like a horse. At a minimum being in leadership positions chips away at everything about me that isn’t a leader. If I’m attentive, it also challenges me and stretches me, Either way, that’s change. But I think that core part shouldn’t change. In the end, you have to leave the part that is a horse, or what you have is a pile of rubble.
I would say about the A.G. Lafley leadership statement that it did not change him, that perhaps he did not need to change because he had envisioned a style of leadership that was pliable and molded himself into that image. It had to have felt natural, since he did not notice it.
It’s worth pointing out that the higher up the organization you lead, the more you can adapt the job to who you are. For leaders in the middle, often there are aspects of the job that require change. However, nothing should change the values and principles that define who you are.
So in the end, I agree that authentic leadership, which requires both transparency and integrity, is more about being that it is about doing. The Army had a heirarchy: Be (all the principled things you know to be right), Know (your job, your organization, your people) and Do (the things that will make your organization and people better). Those are in order of importance.
You seem to imply that heading a Fortune 500 company automatically makes you a leader. True, in the sense you are leading a company, but aren’t a lot of “leaders” really “managers?”
Yes many who think they are leading are really managing.
If you study Lafley’s tenure at P&G you’ll see he was a leader in the truest sense of the word.
He turned the company around by making courageous decisions. that truly changed the company.
Thanks for chiming in,
Dear Dan, when you say “he had decided how to be” I understand you are not saying he had chosen his style (something that would be outside of himself) but rather that he had connected to himself deeply, was already anchored in his values which guided him to drive his vision? Am I correct?
Really interested to know what you heard and saw- Thank you!