Blanchard Challenges Leaders to Stay Up in Down Times

November 10, 2011

By Jennifer Willis
Communications Staff|

In today's tough economic times, it's hard to stay positive, especially for leaders in the business world. But that is exactly what Dr. Ken Blanchard says is the most important thing for today's leaders.

“You have to be the bearers of hope,” Blanchard told a packed Ethington Theatre.
"You have to be the bearers of hope," Blanchard told a packed Ethington Theatre
"You have to be the bearers of hope," Blanchard told a packed Ethington Theatre at Friday morning's CEO Lecture Series, put on in partnership with AZ Business Magazine. "That doesn't mean you have to be deceitful or not tell the truth about what's going on. But if you aren't positive, your people won't be positive."

Blanchard lamented that so much of the news talks about the bad that's going on in the world.

"There are so many good-news stories out there that never get told," he said. "As a leader, you need to look for those stories in your company and industry and showcase them and try to see how you can make them even better."

Blanchard also emphasized the importance of treating workers as partners. He said too often managers and leaders get behind closed doors and talk about the number of people they need to fire.

"Instead, why aren't you talking to your people to see what other ideas there are out there? Get over yourself and stop thinking that the only brains in the company are in your office," he said. "Your people care about how your organization does. They are on your team."

Blanchard gave the example of Southwest Airlines, which he said managed to make a profit at a time when many airlines were losing money because it looked for ideas from its employees.

"Most of you have probably heard of their Business Select program," he said. "You can choose to pay extra to bypass the line at the check-in counter and be one of the first to board the plane. What many might not know is, that idea came from one of their mechanics."

Blanchard used Southwest in many of his examples because he admires the culture the company has created with its employees. He said Southwest's workers are the carrier's number one customers - and, because of them, the company has been successful.

"There is a trickle-down effect," Blanchard said. "Profit is what happens when you motivate and take care of your people. If you do this, they will take care of your customers and, in turn, your customers will take care of you."

Blanchard closed by saying that Jesus was the greatest leader of all time because he was a servant leader. 

"Jesus told his disciples, ‘I am here to serve you,'" Blanchard said. "He washed his disciples' feet and told them to ‘do for others what I have done for you.'"

Blanchard said everyone needs something to serve.

"When you have nothing to serve, you end up serving yourself and that is one of the biggest problems we have with our leaders today," he said. "With no clear vision or direction, we have a bunch of self-serving leaders more concerned with re-election than serving others.

"About 2,100 years ago, who would you have put your money on? The Roman Empire or a man with 12 weird guys following him? Today, people name their children Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

"They name their dogs Brutus and Caesar."