I spent the first season of my professional life in Silicon Valley interacting with high-tech leaders. I learned that at the most basic levels, there are three ingredients to great leadership: Head, heart, and guts.1
Pat Gelsinger,2 a Senior Vice President at Intel, started out with two. As a college kid, he was recruited by Intel, and the interviewers remarked, “Pat is young, intelligent and arrogant. He’ll fit right in!”
Twenty-eight years later Pat was still with Intel and in charge of half of their revenue. At a symposium I created on Business & Spirituality, Pat spoke about work/life balance and leading with head, heart, and guts. On the way to the airport, he decided to visit an employee he had heard about. She had worked for the company almost as long as him, but was way down the corporate ladder. She was battling cancer for the second time in less than a year. So this Senior Vice President knocked on the door with flowers in his hands, and gave this lady the surprise of her life. You would have thought it was Ed McMahon giving her a 10-million-dollar check. She knew in that moment that she had given the best of her years to a company who cared. When I saw Pat offer a prayer for her, I knew he got to where he was because of head, heart and guts.
Great leaders often come to companies like yours because of high achievement opportunities, but they stay because it becomes like a family. And family is there to rejoice in peak performances and it’s also there to carry people through the valleys as well.
You want to be known as a company who cares for its people. A family shows its strength when you need them most. I saw that first-hand when my neighbor, who was a senior manager at a famous high-tech company, fell 25 feet during a team building exercise with his coworkers.
His wife called me immediately. I spent a decade of my life as a pastor helping families through crises like this. Together with the Head of HR and the Chief Information Officer for his company, we negotiated a transfer from the small trauma hospital to Stanford University, where he would get the best care.
I helped the family thoughtfully evaluate and clarify which doctor, attorney or treatment plan would be best. Since my neighbor couldn’t speak, we dialogued using a marker board. I helped his wife prioritize and delegate the many pressing action items during the crisis.
When he was anxious facing a 14-hour facial reconstruction surgery, I shared with him an inspiring metaphor from his cultural background, that really has become the symbol for my coaching practice:
With his wife’s permission, I said to my friend who was born in Israel, “The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah wrote a verse of poetry that is perfect for a time like this.”
He wrote, “Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up with wings as eagles.”
“Eagles are very unique in the way that they deal with storms. Instead of avoiding a storm, they fly right into the eye of it, and harness its power to rise above it. They angle their wings and instead of falling to the ground, the strong winds bounce them up to a higher elevation above the storm. This storm you are facing will only make you a stronger and better leader. You will rise above it.”
And he truly has. It’s a year later and my neighbor is now looking good and back to work and I’m coaching him in dreaming up the next chapter of his life after the storm.
Whether it’s a team in conflict or a leader facing a personal storm, every challenge is an opportunity for growth.
I am coaching a former Vice President for Clinical Operations for a large medical foundation. (I share this with his permission.) He is currently on medical leave due to liver failure. I’m helping him to craft a development plan for his life in transition, which we believe will culminate in a liver transplant and his return to work. Having now become a patient in the very clinics he started, he plans to return to senior leadership with a double sense of compassion for the patients his organization serves. He plans to rise above the storm and grow through this transitional time.
I recently was called in to work with the most conflicted team in a corporation. We identified their ambition and the opposition to accomplishing it. I told them if they were to bounce back from this and put up the best numbers in the company, they’d be rock stars! They shared some tough words, they talked about where they came from and where they wanted to go together. They asked for what they needed from each other to move on and be their best. They took flight and wowed their VP with a new-found passion and unity.
I’m ready to help you be a leader with head, heart and guts. I’m here to help you create a culture that cares about results and relationships. And I’m ready to empower your team to rise above the stresses and storms to achieve synergy and success.
1 Head, Heart & Guts: How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders by Dotlich, Cairo, Rhinesmith.
2 Pat Gelsinger is now the President of EMC.