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Lyn Turknett, Leadership Coach

Lyn Turknett
Turknett: "Business skills can be taught, but the leadership skills necessary to work through other people are heavily influenced by heredity and early experience."

Book: (This question is way too hard!) Maybe the textbook for my Sociology of Religion class many moons ago -- "The Bible of the World." We all search for meaning, and all over the world ideas about goodness, character, and the leader as servant have much in common.

Newspaper: The Wall Street Journal -- essential business information with in-depth coverage of current issues, companies and leaders. They are usually spot-on in their analysis. I still remember an article on Antonini at K-Mart in the early 1990s predicting failure because he was excessively optimistic, unwilling to listen to his people (or to any bad news) and unwilling to visit older stores (only new stores that made him feel good). I knew from shopping in a K-Mart that their logistics and inventory management was dismal and that ads touting customer service were bogus, but anyone reading the story would have also known that K-Mart was a risky investment. WSJ reporters "get" the leadership, culture, financial success linkage.

Web site: Google -- from there I can go anywhere, and I love the challenge of finding exactly what I want with the first search string.

Gadget: The wireless card in my little Sony laptop -- amazing!

Plane Ticket: To Austin, TX, to see our older son.

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

Global Office: What are you reading?

Lyn Turknett: Fiction -- "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" -- written from the perspective of an autistic 15-year-old. Nonfiction -- "The Smartest Guys in the Room" (about the Enron debacle -- and the culture of hubris and shallowness that was built) and "The Cheating Culture." This book is interesting but, so far, there's not enough emphasis on personal responsibility and values -- too much "society made me do it." Certainly a materialistic, greed-is-good culture is corrupting, especially for our children, and we agree that leaders have a powerful effect on culture, but I'd like to see more emphasis on our responsibility as individuals to live an honest, decent life throughout the book. People don't need any more excuses. I've skimmed the last chapter, though, and it looks as though he ends with great ideas there for teaching ethics in our schools and business schools and for emphasizing integrity in the family.

GO: Who's been your biggest influence?

LT: My mother. She loved learning -- she worked in the business school at the University of Georgia and went to grad school througout the time I was growing up. She got her MBA in her early 50s (around 1957) and her doctorate at 62. She would have LOVED the internet. She also parented with an incredibly effective balance of firmness and warmth.

GO: What's your biggest mistake?

LT: Not getting enough outside help early on in running our own business -- we needed advice to help make financial and critical people decisions faster. Physician, heal thyself!

GO: Is management an art or a science?

LT: Both, of course. Business skills (accounting, marketing, etc.) can be taught, but the intrapersonal, interpersonal and leadership competencies necessary to work through other people (self-confidence, humility, integrity, optimism, the ability to "read" others, etc.) are heavily influenced by heredity and early experience and are more difficult to develop. (Some of these are the foundational elements of leadership character that we believe all leaders MUST develop.) The tacit knowledge of management -- what you learn from experience that is difficult to put into words -- can't be readily codified in a "scientific" manner. We believe that coaching can help people learn more quickly from experience and, through self reflection and self examination, develop character and capacity to apply the "art" of management.

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

LT: Maybe my purse and briefcase -- or the mouse pad with the picture of Jules -- our first grandchild!

-- Lyn Turknett and her husband Bob 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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