Viewing entries in

The greatest compliment I ever got

Earl Maxwell, founder of Maxwell, Locke and Ritter and CEO of St.David's Foundation, is one of my heroes and mentors. He introduced me to core values when I was just starting out and the greatest lesson of all: no success at work is worth failure at home.  He also gave me a profound compliment to live up to my whole life when he called me a level 5 leader. So what's a Level 5 leader?  Jim Collins, in his bestseller Good to Great researched hundreds of companies to understand what separates the good from the great.  To benchmark, he defined "great" as having average cumulative stock return of at least 3 times the market over a 15 year period. Only 11 of the Fortune 500 companies made the cut.  Their leaders were identified as Level 5 for this key trait:  the ability to blend extreme personal humility with intense professional will.  Humility + Will = level 5 leader.  How do they do it?

1) They set up others for success.

2) They are modest.

3) Their resolve and diligence never wavers.

4) Mediocrity is unacceptable to them.

5) They are quick to credit others for their success, credit theirs to luck and take the blame for mistakes.

How do you become a level 5 leader?  Here's my advice:

1) Build your bench and groom great leaders to succeed you in your organization.  This starts with delegating.

2) If someone is giving you the credit, turn the spotlight away from you and on to the team you lead.  Better yet, join the choir and include specific examples in your praise.

3) People first, ideas later:  get the right team on the bus before you tackle the route.

4) Be brave enough to confront your weaknesses, address them and maintain confidence that you will succeed.

5) Play the part.  If you want to be a level 5 leader, start acting like one.

Go out there and be great!

Keep it classy,


Saying goodbye to a Texas Legend and an American Original

In my life I have had the great fortune to know Liz Carpenter. I met Liz through my friend Jennifer Hill. My favorite memories are many: Liz's fabulous dinner parties, where you might be sitting between a political heavyweight and a radio personality hearing them talk about the craziest thing they ever did for love, watching the Gore/Bush debates with her, and soaking in her hot tub.

What I loved more than anything about Liz Carpenter was her optimism and sense of fun. Liz inspired you to think big and work hard. Liz was passionate about life. As Sarah Weddington, another Texas legend I am proud to call a friend, said at her service, "Liz, life won't be the same without you, but thanks to you its better." Like Sarah, who opened doors for women to control their reproductive lives, Liz opened doors for women in press, politics and penned the words that comforted a nation in its darkest hour. Liz was irrepressible and lovable. She rehearsed her funeral twice, once while standing onstage and having a choir sing How Great Thou Art. Liz stood for women, Texas and democracy. I'll never forget what her granddaughter Bonnie said about her, because Liz made me feel the same way, "I can't tell you how it feels for a woman like that, with a life like that, to be proud of you."

After Liz wrote Getting Better all the Time , about getting older she joked about coming out with a sequel titled, "I lied". But it is her thoughts on the afterlife that stay with me: "I have some to think of the hereafter as the last and ultimate home, where we became part of the universal soul and understand all we have striven to know before. I hope for a place of signing and laughter in a circle of all those I've loved who have gone before me. I hope there will be plenty of things left to do. It will be hard for someone like me to just lie around on billowing clouds, shining up my halo and preening my wings. I want to keep on learning and being part of things, entering the mind of those I've left behind with an answer, some guidance, or a kiss when they need it most."