A Mountain of Hope

My heart is filled with hope for the future.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending a few days with eight other CEOs and senior executives of successful businesses across the country who gathered to talk about leadership. The CEOs were selected by the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) as great examples of leaders who practice people-centric leadership coupled with enterprise excellence.

From L to R: Dan Ariens (Ariens Co.), Guardie Banister, Jr. (Aera Energy), Tom Hance (Lincoln Industries), Tim Sullivan (MarquipWardUnited & PCMC), Laura Roberts (Pantheon Enterprises), Fred Keller (Cascade Engineering), George Saiz (MicroAire Surgical Instruments), Partha Kundu (Starbucks), Bob Chapman (Barry-Wehmiller)

In partnership with the AME, we invited these impressive individuals to our conference facilities in Aspen, CO to explore what great leadership looks like, how it is fostered in their organizations, and how we might inspire other business leaders to realize the power of people-centric leadership.

In other words, we hope to create a world where everyone matters.

With the magnificent Rockies providing a metaphor for the hurdle that lies before us, we were inspired to establish this statement of purpose:

We believe…

  • Leadership carries the fundamental responsibility for the stewardship of the lives entrusted to us.
  • Stewardship of people and business success are a virtuous cycle.
  • Business has the power to become the most powerful positive force for enriching lives and communities.

The ideas that resulted from our rousing dialogue marked the beginnings of a movement to change the way business leaders approach their responsibility to those within their sphere of influence.  It was profoundly meaningful to me that a group of CEOs responded to a call to determine a way to move the world in a direction of genuinely caring about each other.

We hope to create a world where everyone matters. Click To TweetAfter hearing about the actions and initiatives within their own companies, it is apparent these leaders are ideally suited and thoroughly inspired to join me on this journey. I’ll share with you the great things their companies are doing in future blog posts.

In the meantime, I remain hopeful and ready. The mountain awaits us.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

8 Comments

  • Rob Donley says:

    I felt compelled to offer a suggestion to the blog format after reading Bob’s post and the comments above. IMO it would be an improvement to have a “+1” or maybe a “Heart” function for others to support each user’s views as expressed in the comments. Most social media platforms make use of the same concept. With that, I’d like to add +1 to Bob for sharing this experience, and +1 to Ken for his on-point response.

    Rob Donley

  • Ken says:

    I feel the need to respond to Mohammad Babar’s comments above as one who lives in capitalist America and someone who knows Bob Chapman personally.

    Let’s first crack open the subject of American capitalism… why is it so wrong to start or run a successful company and allow those who sacrifice their time and risk their financial well-being (namely the owners and shareholders of any given company) to enjoy the fruits of their success? As long as they pay a fair market wage to the employees that work for them in the country that they work, they should enjoy the lion’s share of the profit. One doesn’t enter into business thinking that they’ll risk everything they have and own sharing equally with those in their company who have zero stake in the game. Would you be willing to do that? These owners and company executives often forfeit valuable time with their families and friends to get their company off the ground and continue to improve it. They definitely work more hours than the standard forty or less that most persons are willing to give. True vacations are few and far between and sleep is lost because they have to stay connected to their business all the time. At first, I’m sure the financial success is a driver, but I’ve seen many of these leaders like Bob Chapman begin to understand that they now have a responsibility to everyone who works for their company. They lead a much larger family and we all rely on them to keep our facilities open, improving, and growing. If your business is successful, then all who earn a living from it will be able to continue earning that living.

    The aspirations Mr. Chapman clings to are even greater than that. His vision is clear and thoughtful of the larger family. Not only is the company he leads giving all who are employed by it a fair market wage, but they are also aspiring to provide daily fulfillment and purpose to its associates contributions. The company is providing, at great expense, avenues for education in communication skills and inspirational leadership. They regularly celebrate who their people are, the contributions they gladly give to the success of the business, as well as personal achievements and God-given talents they possess. Because all of us in the working world spend more time with our work family than we do with our actual family, Bob and other leaders like him see the level of influence they could leverage to help shape better spouses, parents, coaches, teachers, and citizens. If any person has a fulfilling and purposeful day at work, then they’ll take that positive energy home with them and the odds increase that the persons in their home will benefit from it. It supports that age old analogy about dropping a small stone in water and the ripples it creates. Bob Chapman is dropping stones in the body of water he has influence over, namely his company, to see how far the ripples can reach. How can that be a bad thing, even if the company is successful and making more money than it ever has in its one-hundred year plus history? At conferences like the one described in the blog post above, he’s finding and encouraging peers to drop small stones in the bodies of water they influence also. What does it matter where they held the conference? Would it be better to hold it at a local Laundromat so as not to seem lofty? Regardless of where it’s held, wouldn’t they still be taking the ideas shared and vision back to their “bodies of water” to start “dropping stones”? I think you need to cut them a little slack.

    Mr. Chapman is a servant leader, generous, and always has an open door for anyone in the company. He actively looks for the good in people, instead of pointing out the bad. He shines a light on the talents and contributions of the associates of his company rather than exploiting them for a dollar. Sure, he’s an extremely wealthy man and deserves to be so, but he’s extremely accessible, friendly, and a good role model.

    Mohammad, I’ll leave this challenge with you… are you doing the same? The “body of water” that you can influence (your company, your family or anyone you may lead today)… are you dropping small, positive stones to watch the ripples or are you throwing them at others who are trying to make positive ripples? Will you continue to accuse others of “seeking perches to fawn condescendingly over the ‘lives entrusted to them’” while standing on a mountain of judgment looking down on persons who have worked hard for their success? Please point your aggression and attitude toward the companies that don’t get it. Throw your stones at the companies who exploit for profit, not those who are willing and actively trying to change. Give Bob and other leaders like him a chance to move toward something better.

  • Mohammad Babar says:

    Bob,

    Were you and the “senior executives of successful businesses across the country” that were fêted in your private mountain top aerie inspired enough to think through the “statements of purpose”? Was the condescension embedded in the “statements of purpose” even acknowledged? Did the discussions note that true leadership is precisely about NOT seeing yourself as a “leader”, let alone being “responsible for the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you”? True “Leadership” is inspired by
    a) having the humility to see yourself as just one piece of a bigger whole,
    b) recognizing that your piece is not worthy of being larger than any other piece and
    c) then actively living among those they are to be leading to set an example for others to emulate.

    “Leadership” as such then is quietly earned by engaging, empathizing, caring and sharing the responsibility, risks and rewards with the lives around you. The ones that earn the right to be leaders don’t see themselves as “impressive individuals” seeking perches to fawn condescendingly over the “lives entrusted to them”. True “leadership” goes out of its way to break down the very walls of separation imposed by top down hierarchies, organization charts, exclusive retreats, et al that you and “senior executives of successful businesses across the country” impose and then hypocritically offer to lead in tearing down. True leaders start by not sitting in private retreats to strategize about how best to take responsibility “for the stewardship of the lives entrusted” to them but rather by walking, working, talking and, in short, LIVING the lives they would like to have “entrusted” to them. The people whose lives you would like to be stewards of are not some orphans or wayward children in need of your enlightened benevolence. Indeed, the ones that can use your stewardship are the very ones these “impressive individuals” would deny employment to anyway. It is this very idea of a hero worshipping “cult” of leadership that businesses and Westerners are so fond of that stifles progress, not just in business but for humanity and the planet. True “leaders” are selected for by the ones who would be led. They are not imposed, installed or part of some Ivory Tower conjured shallow management strategy. If they are, they may be “successful” short term from a narrow profit/loss perspective but doomed to failure by the next “business cycle”.

    Because businesses has a fiduciary responsibility to their select shareholders, it is the height of irresponsibility and arrogance (not to mention insulting to the majority of humanity that has suffered as a consequence of “business”) to then say that “business has the power to become the most powerful positive force for enriching lives and communities”. We live in a hyper-Capitalist world, a world run for businesses by businesses. A business as a Capitalist enterprise only works for those with Capital. What is to happen then to the vast majority of the planet’s denizens that don’t have capital? Are they to continue to suffer in silence waiting for evangelical Capitalists to take stewardship over their lives? If Capitalist enterprises were the “most powerful force for enriching lives and communities” then why has the overwhelming majority of humanity suffered and will continue to suffer as a direct consequence of rampant Capitalism? The simple fact is that no amount of enlightened business “leadership” taking “stewardship of the lives entrusted to them” will change the suffering it causes because a business’ raison d’être is to exploit the many for the benefit of the few. It can never be a “positive force for enriching lives and communities” until it takes stock of it’s parasitic nature and willfully evolves to a symbiosis with the with society and planet at large. Perhaps you and your “impressive individuals” can explore this at the next meeting at the Rocky Mountain Xanadu? We’ll be waiting for you at the bottom of Mt. Sinai.

    Respectfully,

    Mohammad Babar

  • Tom Rausch says:

    Thanks Bob. That is a wonderful message of hope. It is great to know these other CEO’s share in that statement of purpose.

  • Greg Williams says:

    One cannot help but be inspired and encouraged by a group of highly influential CEO’s taking three days out of their busy lives and away from their businesses to talk about their awesome responsibility as stewards of the lives entrusted to them.

    The statement of purpose developed by the CEO’s is more than inspirational, it’s profound! Leaders of this caliber don’t invest three days, create a statement of purpose, and make commitments to change the way business leaders approach their responsibility to those within their sphere of influence, without taking action.

    I too, along with Bob, have a mountain of hope that this group is the beginning of a movement and that they will influence and inspire other business leaders to realize the power of people centric leadership and to start changing the lives of those they touch for the better.

  • This blog is a must to read. When so much data points to despair we know that human beings can and do change the course of today and tomorrow. I am inspired and agree with the statement of purpose that this wonderful group of CEO’s committed to.
    On a call this morning with a business colleague in eastern Europe, we were sharing our belief and experience of actual results where business can be a powerful force in caring for our people and our earth.
    I look forward to future posts about the work of this group of CEOs in manufacturing and about the work of those that they have included in this important mission. Wishing each of you individually and collectively grace, happiness and success.

  • Dale Barnes says:

    It really makes my day when open an e-mail as inspirational as this ! Thanks

  • Dan Aude says:

    Hope is a powerful motivator and I for one am encouraged to know there are business leaders forging a path on a less traveled road in the corporate world. Business ideas and theories have come and gone over the years, some have worked very well and others were set aside. My hope comes from the commitment of these business leaders who are committed to changing the American business culture by focusing on the greatest resource of any business, “the people”. Without the people, an order is not secured, a designed is not created, and a part is not machined. Thank you all for your commitment to the people centric culture, the immediate future, and the generations to follow.

    Dan Aude

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