Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Leaders Should be Enthusiastic … but Skeptical!

Successful people typically possess a deep passion for the activities in which they engage. The great basketball coach John Wooden said: “Your energy, drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.”

But, be careful; enthusiasm alone doesn’t carry the day.

Consider the following two dimensions: 1) Laid Back versus Enthusiastic; and 2) Skeptical versus Gullible. The enthusiastic but gullible person typically has problems getting things done. The laid back and skeptical guy is usually the wet blanket, not the achiever.

The great leader is typically very enthusiastic but also quite skeptical when things don’t make sense or numbers don’t match points of view, plans or specific objectives.

Consider Alan Mulally, the very successful CEO of Ford. Last year, hits such as the Ford Fusion and Fiesta propelled sales of Ford models upward at twice the rate of the overall market. Mulally, a relentlessly enthusiastic salesman, wasted no opportunity to look into the eyes of reporters, squeeze their forearms, and remind them how “fabulous” Ford had become.

But Mulally also has a very skeptical side. For example, every Thursday morning at 7:00am, inside the Thunderbird Room, a windowless conference room in Ford’s Michigan headquarters, Mulally meets with his 15 top executives. At these 3-hour meetings, known as BPR for business plan review, he requires his direct reports to post more than 300 charts, each of them color-coded red, yellow, or green to indicate problems, caution, or progress. The purpose; find problems early and fix them quickly.

Net, enthusiasm is uplifting, but coupled with skeptical, it is powerful.

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