Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Timing Is Everything - Major General (Retired) Stan Genega Shares His Views On Leadership And Passion

Yesterday morning, just a few hours before I received Scott St. Germain's fine article on Passion in Leadership, I had breakfast with Stan Genega, a retired U.S. Army Major General who is now a senior executive in private industry in the Boston area. During his career in the Army Corps of Engineers, General Genega had many opportunities to observe and to practice leadership in action. As a member of the Personal Staff of Colin Powell, when General Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Stan was in a position to see Powell's unique style of leadership "up close and personal."

Stan recounted with great admiration an incident that he observed when General Powell emerged from his office in the company of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just as they emerged from the office, two cleaning ladies were walking down the hall, and stared in wonder at the two famous men. They then began to resume their journey down the hall to their next assignment. Powell called them back, and asked them to wait. He called for a staff photographer to come to his office, and posed with Schwarzenegger and the two ladies, and later presented the ladies with signed copies of the photos. The common touch! What a rare trait in leaders these days.

General Genega himself has thought, spoken, written and demonstrated his own brand of leadership - in the Army and in senior positions in the construction and consulting industries. Over breakfast, we were discussing the ongoing series running in this Blog - 10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership. Stan mentioned that before he retired from the Army, he was privileged to address The American Society of Civil Engineers on the topic of Leadership when he received their Excellence in Management Award. He was kind enough to make available to us a transcript of that speech. Although it was delivered in 1996, the timeliness of his remarks for us today is remarkable. His views of passion as a component of leadership are a nice complement to Scott St. Germain's thoughts as they were shared in yesterday's article.

* * * *
Leadership Conference Lecture

Delivered by Major General Stanley G. Genega
11 November 1996,
at American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Convention and Exposition,
as recipient of the ASCE Parcel - Sverdrup Civil Engineering Management Award.

I am honored to be here, especially knowing that I am following in the footsteps of some of the Nation's greatest engineers, such as Jack Morris, a former Chief of Engineers and the first recipient of this award, and Stephen Bechtel, Jr., builder of one of the nation's premier engineering firm & many other distinguished engineers. It is also a distinct honor for me to receive an award named for General Sverdrup, another former Corps leader, whose exploits and achievements on active duty during WW II are legendary.

After basking in the glow which accompanied ASCE's notification that I was to receive this award, however, I had to think long and hard about what I would say to you today. We all like to think that, when it comes to engineering, management, or engineering management we know what we're about. The question is, how do we articulate what we know or think important in a fashion which makes sense.

I tackled the job by a fair amount of reading and thinking about the profession in particular and management in general. I reviewed the acceptance speech for 1995 delivered by the late Dr. Louis Berger. He stated an argument for the growing need for civil engineers who have management skills, and, perhaps advance degrees in engineering management. His points were persuasive with me and I would like to add to them. He recognized that the world in which the profession operated had changed, and, therefore, the profession must change what it brings to the table.

The world clearly has changed and continues to do so. It is a rare firm or profession which today, because of this changing world is not rethinking what it does, how it does it, and for whom it does it. The pace of change is hectic, making the future and what we do to prepare for it more uncertain. That is our reality today and, it appears, will remain so for some time.

Given this situation, I believe that technical competence and broad managerial skills will remain important, in fact essential, but that the greatest success in the profession will be more a result of leadership in applying that technical competence and managerial skills, rather than the competence and skills themselves.

I'd like to talk about leadership for that reason. I would stress that, in my judgment, management is not the antithesis of leadership. They are not the same, but neither are they mutually exclusive. I would think that one could lead without managing only in a situation where resources are unconstrained-- an unrealistic situation. Management and leadership are thus complementary.

Some may be saying, "Oh no, another boring recital of management versus leadership; it's just common sense; it's all obvious". Clearly, there is a great deal of common sense about both management and leadership and many points are obvious; but, I would offer that we can all be refreshed and reminded about common sense and the obvious and that such reflection is useful even to the very best among us. To use a parallel in our personal lives, we know the kitchen needs painting badly, but we rarely appreciate how badly until the first lick of fresh paint is placed.

I will talk about differences in management and leadership only to highlight differences; I mean nothing negative; rather, as I said before, they are complementary.

You've heard many of these before:

· Management is a science; leadership is an art: Management may well produce the lowest G&A rate among competitors; leadership will use this to dominate the market, maximizing volume and profits.

· Management is mechanical; leadership has vision: management will produce the plan to achieve an objective with appropriate oversight and measurement along the way; leadership will move forward with the plan, bobbing and weaving as conditions change, keeping the vision in sight and optimizing the success consistent with the vision.

· Management does things right; leadership does the right things: management will assure that all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted; leadership will assure that the right story is being written.

· Management is risk averse; leadership is risky: Management will be appropriately precise and sure before stepping off in any venture; leadership, with a vision of what is not necessarily apparent, will reach boldly beyond what is absolutely sure-- an essential element of growth.

· Management is process oriented; leadership is people oriented: Management will find the right people with the right skills, ensure their pay and benefits are correct, and generally look out for their benefit within the prescribed programs; leadership will cheerlead the individuals, coalesce them into a team, and get dramatic results most individuals would not have thought achievable.

You've been there. Each of us deals with many firms and organizations in our personal and professional lives. Each of you would probably agree that we, in our dealings, expect politeness, professionalism, quality, and responsiveness-- and often get them. Think now to your dealings with an organization where there appeared to be magic in the air. Yes, you were given politeness, professionalism, quality, and responsiveness, but they were delivered with an enthusiasm and intensity far beyond the norm. These people weren't just doing what they should; they were enjoying it and doing it with a passion. That's leadership in action-- pride in what the organization is about and enthusiasm about what they're doing.

Certainly there are isolated examples of individuals behaving that way when all in the organization don't, but when the organization and most of its individuals do, leadership is responsible and making the difference.

I have heard people say that leadership is contagious; it is, but top down, rarely the other way. Pride in the organization and enthusiasm about what it is doing germinates and grows from the top. We all listen to the boss very carefully; then we watch what the boss does even more carefully.

I believe, very strongly, that the only true leadership is leadership by example. That's a phrase we've heard often, but I'm not sure it is as widely understood as it is used. For one thing, it does not imply any egalitarianism, enforced familiarity, or uniformity in compensation or responsibilities. The leader must lead, not simply be one of the gang.

In my view, leading by example means adherence to, and the practice of, certain basic values and principles:

· It means speaking well of your boss, your staff, and the organization. Only by showing loyalty can you expect loyalty.

· It means hard work. Only the leader who is willing to go the extra mile can expect a team to do the same.

· It means maintaining, and keeping current, your competence, for only then can you insist on excellence in others.

· It means being candid with all those with whom you deal, thus getting candor in return.

· It means showing commitment and enthusiasm for all that the organization undertakes. It means selflessness. And it means integrity and impeccable moral behavior. By doing, you will get in return.

Again, words about these values are important, but they pale if not supported by action. Some say leaders are born, not made. I'm not absolutely sure whether they can be made or not, but I am sure that they can be developed and their leadership skills can be enhanced. We have many fine institutions to instill technical competence; many programs are available to develop and strengthen management skills; and fortunately, today the subject of leadership is receiving attention from theoreticians, practitioners, and our educational institutions.

I commend the available training to the profession. Leadership will make a good firm a great firm; a successful project an exemplary project; mere mortals into giants.

Thank you for your attention. Once again, I am pleased and honored to be here, proud to be accepting this award, and especially proud to be wearing the uniform of our Army, yours and mine. I do remember always that, whatever success I have achieved in my chosen profession, including this one, I owe to many more people than I can possibly recount-- starting with the values I learned from my parents and family; continuing with school; then the values my wife and
I have shared over many happy years; and finally the support and mentoring I have received from all with whom I have worked, peers, subordinates, and superiors alike. To aIl I extend a hearty thanks. I am here to receive this award today because of all they have given me.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight that today is Veteran's Day. We seldom pause to reflect that the day was once called Armistice Day. It was conceived as a tribute to the American dead of the First World War. The guns of war had been silent only a year when, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day. This was the anniversary of the day on which the fighting had ended. On this day each year, the nation would honor Americans who so recently had sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of Europe.

Now, on Veterans Day in 1996, we continue to honor our "doughboys" of the First World War who made the supreme sacrifice. No less do we honor the American veterans, living and dead, who served in every war and conflict—from the American Revolution to Bosnia. We honor our veterans from every period of peace as well, for they have safeguarded the liberty many fought and died to keep.

American veterans, I salute you. Your nation and your Army honor you for your sacrifice and continuing selfless service.

Thank you.

* * * *
Thank you, Stan, for articulating timeless principles that we can all apply at whatever level of leadership we are currently serving.


Employmentforphysicians said...


In the artcle I like the LEADERSHIP-- ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESSLEADERSHIP. those good points. Main thing is good article.

Anonymous said...

General Genega is to be thanked for his lucid thoughts on leadership. Clearly it was heartfelt, passionate and well researched. I particularly appreciate the content coming from a man who has experienced true examples of human and professional leaders in military and civilian roles. The ultimate.