Welcome to part 4 of my blog series about leaders that influenced me. I got some great feedback on my recent Lead Like Springsteen post, so thank you to those of you that follow me. I'm honored that you spend time during your busy day to read this blog.
In case you want to catch up, you can check out the first three installments of my influential leaders blog series here:
- Sharing Your Passion and Taking Risks as a Leader
- Tough Leadership Drives Teams to Succeed
- Great Leaders Leverage Teamwork in the Face of Tough Times
I first met Bill Herron when I interviewed with him for a manager’s position at the Arthur Andersen Office of Government Services (OGS). Even though I was interviewing with him, I didn’t actually want the job. However, my current position in healthcare consulting had me on the road 100% of the time and I was ready to spend some time away from airports and corporate housing.
Despite my reluctance, I did end up working for Bill, who taught me important lessons about how to effectively lead people and teams, including:
Be prepared for a conversation to accomplish your goals
Inspire others to act boldly
Let folks know they are valued and the mission matters
Take pride in team accomplishments
How it all began
A good friend of mine from B-school, Rich Sherman (a talented professional photographer), told me his father-in-law (Bill) was expanding his practice and looking for good people. I told Rich I had experience consulting to the government and wasn’t all that interested in going back to it.
Rich convinced me to just go ‘have a chat’ with Bill, he was a great guy and it would be worth my time. What Rich did not disclose was that Bill Herron was a "closer." While I went into the interview to simply have a nice, perhaps obligatory conversation with Bill, I left excited about my future with OGS. Bill was a good student of people and had done a little homework. He was as engaging as he was passionate about his firm and his work. He was not a ‘hard-sell’ type, but he knew all my hot buttons.
Bill mentioned how little travel there would be, before describing how much Arthur Andersen invested in their people. Bill was an Admiral in the Navy Reserves and knew I was an Air Force Reservist. I never had a chance to say no…and I was thrilled.
My first of many leadership lessons from Herron was: always be prepared for a conversation to accomplish your goal and a great product doesn’t require a hard sell.
Motivating People to Act Boldly
Bill knew how to motivate his people. In hindsight, this was partially fueled by his high level of emotional intelligence (EI), which, as originally defined, "refers to the collection of abilities used to identify, understand, control and assess the emotions of the self and others."
Essentially, those with high emotional intelligence, sometimes measured in terms of emotional quotient, or EQ (the counterpart to IQ), are able to understand and leverage the human qualities of their teams to drive results. In fact, according to internationally-recognized psychologist and best-selling author, Daniel Goleman, 80-90% of the difference between star performer and average performers in senior leadership positions is EQ.
In one example that showcased Bill's EQ, I was a manager on a very large OGS engagement, supporting the Medicare program out of headquarters in Baltimore. The work was fast-paced and challenging with lots of clients and deliverables. Bill came out to see the team one day—intending as much to visit and learn as to boost morale. “You are not managing a project, developing a website or consolidating a call center” he told us “you are improving critical services for 35 million beneficiaries, including some of your family members.”
This was also a wonderful example of what my friend Chris McGoff calls “ennoblement” in his book The Primes. A powerful source of empowerment, inspiration and motivation, ennoblement, in Chris’ words, elevates people in degree and excellence and respect and inspires them to act boldly. Bill certainly did that for us. Good leaders help us step back and recognize the value of our work.
OGS produced a great network of talented colleagues and friends and more than their share of excellent leaders. I hope to blog about some more of them in the future. Bill Herron unfortunately left us too soon after suffering from failing health in his last years.
The last time I saw him was at an OGS reunion at the Army-Navy Club in DC. He looked around the room with a great deal of pride and observed, “everyone seems to be doing great.” Due in no small part to your leadership, Bill. Thanks Admiral, RIP.