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Bob Turknett, Leadership Coach


Bob Turknett
Turknett: "The best leaders and managers are those whose followers would say, 'I would follow this leader wherever he/she went.'"
DESK ESSENTIALS

Book: "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt, about Sir Thomas More's struggle with values, principles, and the meaning of one's life. Whether or not you agree with More sacrificing his life for his values (he was executed in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of England's king over that of the Pope), it is a classic story of integrity, character, and courage in the face of the ultimate consequence: death. I read this book nearly 40 years ago and it has had a huge influence on my thinking ever since. Whenever I think a decision or action is too difficult, thinking of Sir Thomas More and what he faced puts the decision in a better perspective.

Newspaper: Wall Street Journal, a must for anyone in the business world.

Web site: Google. I can get to anywhere from there. Google has done a great job making research on the Web simple.

Gadget: My cell phone. Though we need rules of etiquette and for using it when driving, this gadget has helped me get so much more accomplished than I would have thought possible. If cell phone technology were no longer available and I had to go back to the way I conducted business before, it would be a considerable loss for me, both in terms of productivity and money.

Plane ticket: Italy. I would love to spend more time in Europe, period, but there is something about Italy that makes you feel as if you've been transported to another world. Being there is renewing and revitalizing.

(CNN) -- Global Office talks to leadership coach and author Bob Turknett. For Lyn Turknett's answers click here.

Global Office: What are you reading?

Bob Turknett: "Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed and the Fall of Arthur Andersen" by Barbara Toffler. The author was in a senior leadership position at Arthur Andersen and writes a compelling story about the "lack of accountability" that led to the company's demise. She contrasts the character of the founder, Arthur Andersen, with the character of those leaders who were later running a company with his name, and she gives clear examples of how the founder was intentional about "doing the right thing" even when it meant losing a sale or making less money. He had developed a company with a reputation of high integrity. Had the current leaders continued to lead with those same values, it seems clear that Arthur Andersen would still be a thriving firm today, possibly making less money than what their peak times of revenue were, but still thriving. It provides another brilliant example that it takes integrity, respect, and responsibility to be a truly effective leader and build companies that are sustainable.

GO: Who's been your biggest influence?

BT: Ken Kelley, a classmate from elementary school through high school. Ken was a natural leader and someone everyone always wanted to emulate. Ken demonstrated, at a very young age, qualities of integrity, courage, humility, and accountability. Whenever he had a problem with someone, he never talked "about them," but would go to the person and put it on the table -- always with empathy and humility. Consequently, he was a powerful leader and influencer, not just with me, but with all who knew him. After completing his undergraduate degree at Davidson and his law degree at Yale, he went to Vietnam to fulfill his ROTC obligation, where he died in a helicopter crash. If he had lived, there is no doubt in my mind that Ken would have become President and both Democrats and Republicans would have voted him in. I was surfing the web recently and noticed that Davidson College had a "Kelley Scholars Program" for the senior history major who best exemplifies Ken Kelley's personal qualities: "superior academic performance, self-effacing leadership, and personal integrity." Though Ken was a peer, he definitely had a huge influence on my life and has lived continually in my memory.

GO: What's your biggest mistake?

BT: After many years of leadership positions in health care and private practice in psychology, I co-founded with four other psychologists Georgia Psychological Health Network in the mid-1980s, a managed mental health care company attempting to provide a solution in Georgia for quality managed care. We were too early into the market with these services, however. After four years of seed money from eighty psychologists and psychiatrists; tens of thousands of our own life savings; and a failed promise (letter of intent) for continuing capital from a large health care provider, we folded the company. This was not only a major blow to us and others financially, but a failed dream to be the first to lead the way in making managed care a high-quality choice for the consumer. Though it was a mistake to enter a market too early, I learned many lessons on how to run a business with regard to a business plan, strategy, sales, marketing, service/product delivery, capital financing, and leadership (through building trusting relationships).

GO: Is management an art or a science?

BT: Both. Management is based on research and time-tested theories and principles, but also requires some intangibles: intuition, interpersonal savvy, ability to read people and analyze from both facts and intuition. For example, people who score extremely low on empathy and humility have a difficult time getting the "feel" that would help them be inspiring and motivating leaders. The best leaders and managers are those whose followers would say, "I would follow this leader wherever he/she went." Thus, having a high degree of respect (which includes empathy and humility) and a high degree of responsibility (high expectations and accountability) and unquestioned integrity (which fosters trust) are essential. While it might be possible to quantify all of these qualities (science), it makes sense to me to view management as both art and science, and, since, as someone joked, all theories are wrong but some are useful, we certainly want to continue research and the use of the scientific method to add to our (management) knowledge base.

GO: What do you reach for on your desk when the fire alarm goes off?

BT: Interactive Pager. This is the best gadget I have seen for both communication (e-mail) and for using dead time. I wrote over half of my recent book on this pager -- long waits in places like doctor's offices now merely provide opportunities to get some writing done and work accomplished.

-- Bob Turknett and his wife Lyn Turknett are co-founders of the Atlanta-based Turknett Leadership Group which specializes in ethical business practices. They are co-authors of "Decent People, Decent Company: How to Lead with Character at Work and in Life."


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