Leadership as Defined by our Founders

As most of you know, Hewlett-Packard was my first alma mater. In responding to your requests to outline key points and pointers relative to leadership, I began to craft my thoughts when I remembered an article I wrote several years ago which highlighted our founder’s wisdom relative to leadership. From my perspective, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard created the gold standard of strong company values which led to the powerful HP Way culture. As we know, our beloved company has weathered many challenges over the past few decades; yet, I, for one, strongly believe that our company is resurrecting itself in the sea of start-up software and social commerce companies.

A few years ago, I was purging through 30 years of old files, and ran across my ‘special file’ where I kept those unique articles, emails, letters, and notes which were ‘too good’ to throw away. I found an email from 1998 which summarized Dave Packard’s 11 simple rules on how to deal with each other on a daily basis. He believed if we followed these simple rules, we would all emerge as winners – as we would create spirit de corps in our organizations and build unwavering alliances with our customers and partnerships. They are timeless suggestions; and I can honestly say that Bill and Dave walked their talk. This was their legacy as leaders. I am very optimistic that Meg Whitman will hold fast to these truisms and continue her valiant quest to restore HP to the powerhouse it once was.

Below is a shortened version of the email I found with my ‘two cents’ added in italics. As leaders, we are faced with having the difficult conversations, negative co-workers, leading by influence (not always pure authority), and numerous other challenges. When I think about leaders I have admired throughout my career, they exemplified these 11 behaviors when working with others. They did so authentically with a quest to build relationships as their #1 focus and priority.

1. Think first of the other fellow. This is THE foundation for all relationships. Do unto others……

2. Build up the other person’s sense of importance. Allow him to feel equality or superiority (never inferior), and you will build rapport. It is simply not about you – it is about them.

3. Respect the other person’s personality rights. Respect the other person’s right to be different from you. Thankfully, we are each on our own journey – and we each have our own stories to write.

4. Give sincere appreciation. If we think someone has done a good job – tell him. This does NOT mean empty praise, or flattery. The two most important words: thank you.

5. Eliminate the negative. Criticism seldom does what the use intends – it invariably causes resentment which can pollute for years. Constructive feedback needs to be the focus – given in love.

6.  Avoid openly trying to ‘reform’ people. Every person knows he is imperfect. If you want to improve someone – help him embrace a higher working goal – a standard to embrace – they he will do his own ‘make-over’ far more effectively.

7. Try to understand the other person. How would you react in similar circumstances? We need to attempt to meet people where they are – not where we are.

8. Check first impressions. Follow Abraham Lincoln’s famous self instructions: “I do not like that man; therefore, I shall get to know him better.”.

9. Take care of little details.  Watch your smile, your tone of voice, how you use your eyes, the way you greet people, the use of nicknames, remembering special dates, names, faces. Little things polish your skill on getting along with people.

10. Develop a genuine interest in people.  You cannot successfully apply the first 9 rules, unless you have a sincere desire to like, respect, and be helpful to others.

11. Keep it up. That is all: just keep it up!

The source of this talk was a 1958 Sonoma Conference where Dave Packard was addressing a group on how to work with each other AND how to treat their customers. He believed the relationships forged between and among individuals was THE precious commodity and THE distinction for the company.

I believe he was and is right on this point. 100% of our success is built on our RELATIONSHIPS. In the ever growing world of social media and online communities – these principles remain the same, despite many interactions being conducted interactively. In everything we do – our personal relationships, professional relationships, volunteer efforts, etc. – our success is tied to the strength of our relationships. Yes, these points are basic; yet, from my experience, in the relationships that have lasted and grown in strength these 11 practices were front and center.

I hope these 11 points will shed light on the basic bedrock of leadership. This particular June article is briefer than previous articles; however, Bill and Dave were always ‘brief and brilliant’  – and there is simply no need to augment this wisdom.