The ‘It” factor — What’s your executive presence?

You know it when you see it. A leader walks into a room and heads turn. The person instantly attracts positive attention and people gravitate toward them.

Executive presence is the ability to project confidence, poise under pressure and engage others. Research shows that about 55 percent of your credibility comes from how you look. How you sound accounts for an additional 38 percent, only 7 percent of your credibility is based on what you say.

The reality is that executive presence isn’t in anyone’s DNA.  It is, however, possible to leverage your existing strengths and address elements of executive presence that may be weaknesses now but can be developed.

So the good news is that anyone can cultivate those skills. Successful leaders have summed up their assessment of executive presence to include style, substance and character. 

Style is the first impression people make of you. Yes, we do judge a book by its cover.

It’s harsh but everyone does it. Confidence is clearly conveyed when your image is precise and meticulous. So grooming habits, color choices in your wardrobe and alterations to tailor your outfits all add up to a commanding presence.

A common mistake is not taking the time to shop and update basic pieces.  Just because it still fits you does not mean it is the right choice. Showing a current head-to-toe image will give you a competitive edge.  Understand how to present a precise, meticulous but approachable persona.

Substance is made up of your social presence — your demeanor in leadership situations. Leaders show a natural interest in those around them, exude warmth and are able to engage people.

Being approachable, trustworthy and “present” means that we are fully invested in what others are concerned about. The leader who is able to ask the right questions to encourage someone else to do all the talking instantly becomes memorable.

Substance also includes the nonverbal body signals that sometimes sabotage our success.  Focus on posture, direct eye contact and smile to send out a positive vibe.

Character is your inner core — the personal traits and values that define you. Leaders are authentic and sincere. They have identified four or five values and strive to model these in everything that they do consistently.  Clearly communicating in everything that they say and do helps leaders become transparent.

Whether entertaining a client for dinner, conducting a presentation or leading a staff meeting, executives understand how to excite people’s imagination, win hearts and minds and project an authentic and confident image. Executive presence provides an edge to help you grow your business as well as develop relationships.

Shelley Menduni, a Dublin, Ohio-based executive image consultant, trainer and speaker, is the author of “New You: Discover the Best Version of You,” a new book to help people establish a personal brand and manage perceptions of others. Learn more at .

Can your company handle the truth?

“I want the truth!” That’s the famous line from Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men — to which the fearsome Colonel Jessup responds, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Thirty years of research at VitalSmarts shows most organizations also can’t handle the truth. And it costs them in every way from customer retention, profitability and diversity, to employee engagement and safety. In fact, our general finding is that you can pretty much measure the health of an organization by measuring the average lag time between identifying and discussing concerns.

The pattern is repeated everywhere from the board room to the shop floor. Employees assume their boss, peers and even direct reports can’t handle the truth. So they stay mum. They withhold ideas and concerns most every day of their work life.

The lever that changes the world

There is one aspect of your company’s culture that deserves disproportionate attention. The question that should occupy leaders the most is, “Do our employees think there is something more important than the truth?” If the answer is yes, here are some of the ways it is costing you. And here are four things you can do to change their answer.

Talk. First and foremost, make silence discussable. Point out the tendency and consequences of withholding the truth. Start by letting people know you care more about truth than comfort — that your ego is less important than your mission.

Ask. Ask for feedback. Make time for questions. Learn to ask questions in a way that demonstrates your sincere desire for truth.

For example, after making an impassioned pitch for one of your cherished ideas, plead with people to poke holes in it. Many leaders think they can’t share their opinions without shutting down debate. This isn’t true. The only limit on how strongly you can argue for your own view is your willingness to be even more passionate about encouraging people to disagree.

Model. You have no moral authority to ask people to take social risks unless you do the same.

Teach. People mistakenly assume that when others don’t speak up, it’s because they lack courage. Our research shows it is more often about competence. We often want to say something but don’t know how.

In one experiment, we tested whether people spoke up when someone cut in front of them in line. Few did. That reluctance changed dramatically if the victim had previously heard someone else confront another line cutter — in fact they even used almost exactly the same words they heard the previous victim use.

The best way to change a culture of silence is for leaders to not only model the skills, but to also teach them.

The health of your organization is a function of the lag time between people seeing problems and people discussing problems. There is nothing you can do as a leader to have a more profound impact than to create an organization where nothing is more important than the truth.

Joseph Grenny is a bestselling author, speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. He is also the cofounder of VitalSmarts. His work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500.

How to lead your employees to soar

Have you noticed that your employees or staff members seem stuck and unable to move upward? Do you have employees who sit in meetings like a plane stuck on the runway? Have you noticed that your employees don’t seem to be reaching for the sky?

If you have noticed any of these situations in your business, it may be time to PILOT your employees more than merely manage them. Not only will you notice an increased amount of motivation among employees, you will begin to notice that they are contributing more and becoming more involved and invested in your business.

When you PILOT individuals you help them realize their full potential and become the type of leader that every business needs in order to soar. Not only will the following guidelines help your team become more motivated, they will also help realize their own potential. Many employees are not as successful as they have the potential to be, simply because they do not realize the power they have within. Being a PILOT for your employees will help them realize their abilities and use them to become more effective, productive, and be a catalyst to their growth.

  • P – Potential
    Leaders develop others’ potential: to be a better person, to perform better in their job, and to be better equipped to grow into leadership. Leaders develop leaders. But you may not understand how?To develop leaders, you must be someone that they can emulate. Show your employees that you are learning alongside them. Your employees want to learn from the way that you handle failure and you can do so with grace and ease. When your employees see you fail, they see that you are just like them. You are still learning and working at becoming a better leader. As a leader, you need to use your failures as learning experiences that you can share with your team. These experiences will create a culture that allows for creativity and educated risk-taking to allow failure and not fear it. People tend to learn more when they feel safe and secure enough to make mistakes.
  • I – Implementation
    Have you ever had a meeting to discuss the meeting before the meeting? Are you spending more time getting ready to get ready? These behaviors occur when we become stuck in “Analysis Paralysis”. In order to turn your ideas into actions, you need to take action! There is a fine line between waiting for perfection and taking a calculated risk.Ask yourself, “Is the speed of implementing this more important than perfection?” “What will we gain or lose from pulling this trigger? What will we gain or lose from waiting?” Then, ask yourself these questions: “Are you hitting the mark?” “What are the performance indicators we need to watch for?” Involve everyone on the team in the problem solving process and put everything up for consideration and then discuss the pros and cons for each possible adjustment.
  • L – LeadershipIt’s always good to be the first. Leading your industry demonstrates innovation, and innovation does not happen without first, taking educated risks. Leadership is such a broad and all-encompassing term that may be difficult to explain. Effectively leading means communicating in a clear and concise manner. As a leader, it is important that you clearly communicate the vision and inspire your employees to perform their duties in the manner that is expected of them.The speed at which you act can determine the amount of time in which it takes for your products or services to hit the market. The sooner you take action, the faster your clients will be able to benefit from the products and services that you have to offer. As a leader, you need to commit to a course while you communicate with your team and take the required actions to achieve your goal.Your communication and action will lead you closer to your vision, because as we all know, if you are not moving closer to your vision, you are actually moving further away. When your employees see your drive and dedication to achieving the end result, they will follow and lead their team more effectively because they can clearly understand your vision and the actions needed to reach your goal.
  • O – Optimize
    As a leader, you need to understand that you are responsible for the nurturing and culture of your organization and how it responds to risk, change, and learning from failures on any level. To evaluate the strength of your team, you should evaluate how your team embraces change, welcomes change, initiates change, recommends change and ask for ideas on how to change. If new ideas are raised in a meeting, do you properly explore them or shut them down immediately? Do you allow your employees to have a voice?At the close of every meeting, do you take the time to ask your employees if they have anything they would like to address? Do they have any feedback over what was covered in the meeting? Effective leaders understand the importance of asking these questions and actively listening to the responses.
  • T—Tenacity
    Too many people give up when they are so close to success. Don’t give up; on yourself as a leader, on your employees, on your organization. You are essential to their success. Be the Pilot in Command of your organization, not the co-pilot who follows along.You want your employees to willingly follow you! No one asks themselves “How can I be an average leader today?” Every day, you need to show your employees that you believe in the vision of your organization, your employees, and the work that they are doing. To do this effectively, you need to take the time to be the Pilot in Command and lead from you are, in order to drive the action!

Elizabeth McCormick is a speaker, author, and authority on Leadership. A former U.S. Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book, “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life.” She teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. Visit:


Follow these six principles, and you’ll develop strong leadership skills

Editor’s note: This is another installment of “Ask Mal.” Mal Mixon, former chairman of Invacare Corporation and a well-known entrepreneur, will regularly share his business advice and experience with Smart Business readers. Ask him a question at [email protected], and your inquiry could be the inspiration for his next column.

Q: I’ve just been promoted into management and would like to ask what you consider the most important principles of leadership?

The leadership principles I learned in the Marines and from my experiences are timeless. They are:

  • Set yourself as an example. Don’t ask your associates to do more than you do. In business, if you are unwilling to take the red-eye to California or to confront tough problems, how can you expect your people to do that?
  • Develop loyalty downward; care about your people first and not yourself. Listen to what all your associates want to say — usually their opinions are quite different. The important thing is to listen. Get their input before you make important decisions. You are only as good as your team. Become interested in your teammates and their families as people. You have to understand them and individually deal with any issues.
  • Make integrity a priority. Never make a promise that you do not intend to honor or keep. That is simply a matter of ethics. Never lie to them. Sometimes we agree on a matter and it may not work out the way we had hoped, but I think it is important to follow through. Sometimes, it is persistence that causes it to happen.
  • Keep your tenacity and resolution strong. Cultivate an unfaltering determination to achieve your plans and goals. Some people may become discouraged easily when something doesn’t quite go right. They may think, ‘Well, I can’t do that; the competition did this.’ You really have to have a killer mentality about getting it done. If you think you can or think you can’t — you are probably right.
  • Become an expert in your profession. A snow job never works. When a new associate is hired at a company, if that person is a phony, within 30 days everyone will know it. You can’t fool people very long. I’ve always advised people to become an expert at something; become a great marketer, a great engineer, a great operating person.
  • Emphasize courage and honor. Face difficult problems and circumstances squarely and lead where others may be apprehensive or unsure. Leaders have to tackle the tough problems and not the easy ones like those you get off your desk right away. You have to have the mentality of ‘I like to deal with problems. I like to fix things. I know when I fix it, the company is going to be a lot better.’

Top management’s most important function is leadership. I first wrote down these leadership points more than 30 years ago, and I don’t think my views about leadership have changed at all since then. Looking back at the tests my company has had — expansions, acquisitions, trials of running out of money and changing computer systems, which almost brought us to our knees — we’ve always been able to get through them. They made us bigger, better and stronger.

Mal Mixon is the former CEO and chairman of Invacare Corporation. A complete story of Mal’s rags-to-riches journey is told in his book, “An American Journey,” published by Smart Business. It can be found at and on 

Five things every leader should stop doing

It’s official — the countdown is on! The holidays are here, the end of the year is near, and, as a leader, you are likely in the throes of determining how to make upcoming months a success. No doubt, you’re probably considering what you can do to become a more effective leader. Sometimes creating change isn’t about adopting new habits but dropping certain ones that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

So challenge yourself to let the following “To Stop List” guide your responsibilities, style, and approach for next year. It may surprise you, but abiding by this list is a proven practice for countless Disciplined Leaders. Give it a try to build a greater focus around what matters most. 

The Leadership “To Stop” List

  1. Stop focusing on the “Trivial Many.” Disciplined leaders make it a habit to ignore or delegate their “Trivial Many” activities and, instead, focus on the “Vital Few.” How can you determine your Vital Few? Use the Pareto Principle, or the “80/20 Rule,” as a guide for choosing the 20 percent — the most vital activities that will drive 80 percent of your results and success. Apply this model to everything you do, including planning, goal-setting, strategizing, decision-making, etc.
  1. Stop overusing the “I” word. Your duty as a leader is to share recognition and put the spotlight more on the team and less on yourself. Start loading up your language with “we” versus “I” (again, 80/20) and you’ll create a more inclusive, empowered culture that shares in accountability and feels more personally motivated to work toward and achieve your company’s goals.
  1. Stop trying to be right all the time. Realize that you don’t always have to be right to demonstrate your competence. In fact, if you’re obsessed with trying to be right and winning every argument, you will reflect a questionable, less confident leadership style. Admitting you don’t have all the answers takes greater guts. What’s more, self-assured, strong leaders will happily change their position if they recognize another person has brought something better to the table. They feel liberated from thinking they must always have the perfect answer to every problem and can better focus on their vital leadership tasks. 
  1. Stop playing favorites. You’re going to like certain people more than others. It’s human nature. But in leadership, don’t give preferential treatment to an employee just because you really click with that person. Nothing will get your team’s attention faster and erode morale quicker than playing favorites. This game of preferential treatment can build barriers and hostilities, create a “mini-culture” of exclusivity among your people, and most certainly damage your leadership credibility. Avoid this leadership sin at all costs by consistently treating everyone fairly, always striving to sustain a reputation for being a leader who doesn’t play favorites. 
  1. Stop being the answer guru. It’s not your job to provide most of the solutions for your people. In fact, you’ll make more progress toward goals if you turn over problem solving to employees. When they come to you with questions or issues, demand that they come up with a few solutions first. This may feel counterintuitive or uncomfortable but go with it. This is a proven strategy for effective problem-solving, one that, again, will allow you to better focus on your vital job: leading.

Final note: If you’ve just read these five points and think it’s going to require some grit, know you’re not alone. It’s often tough to break old patterns and commit to different strategies. But here’s some good news: Lots of leaders have found that the “To Stop List” works. The key, however, is discipline. To really get the results you want, only you can discipline yourself to adopt these habits and create the impact you want and need.

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs Inc. , a general management consulting firm that’s helped 170,000 leaders and 15,000 organizations nationwide create breakthrough results. Manning is author of the newly released book, “The Disciplined Leader.”

How gratitude can make you a better leader

They say it isn’t happy people who are thankful but thankful people who are happy, so why not apply that to your career?

With Thanksgiving just behind us and more holidays quickly heading our way, this is the time of year we reflect on the nature of gratitude. But why do we only focus on thankfulness for one Thursday in November when we should be showing gratitude in all things throughout the year?

As a business leader you may not think about how gratitude plays into your ability to motivate your team and spearhead successful projects, but these things go hand-in-hand.

How to create a culture of gratitude

The primary reason to be a more thankful leader within your organization is to create a culture where everyone is grateful. Simply saying the words, “thank you,” will help boost morale and encourage everyone from employees to clients to be more fulfilled in their work. Why? Because the culture-at-large has practically abandoned gratitude in the workplace. An employee is expected to do the job they were hired to perform, so why would a manager thank them for doing what was asked? But you’ll be surprised by the results when you begin offering your thanks daily.

Other ways to encourage gratitude in your business include:

  • Sending thank you cards to your employee’s home.
  • Encouraging your staff to pay it forward.
  • Leading by example.

A gracious leader is a strong leader

The most important lesson is to learn that gratitude starts with you. When you are gracious enough to understand that you couldn’t be a leader without strong, skilled people to lead, you no longer take their contributions for granted. Humility is something that even the most successful leaders need to embrace.

Being humble is not a weakness in business, even though many leaders have become successful because of their confidence. There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Employees who recognize that their managers are humble and gracious are more likely to experience job satisfaction than their counterparts that are managed by aggressive, authoritarian leaders.

The trick is, the people you work with don’t need grand gestures. They just want your gratitude to be genuine and heartfelt. If they feel that you’re simply going through the motions, your actions won’t be recognized as gratitude but rather as something you read in a leadership handbook and are implementing to see what happens.

Give yourself permission, and by extension, your staff, to accept and provide feedback whenever necessary. If the only feedback you give is negative in nature, or corrective, your team will begin to feel a sense of dread whenever you ask to speak with them. So liberally express positive feedback along with your gratitude as well. This will make constructive criticisms much easier to handle when they are needed.

Just remember, in your personal interactions you’re much more drawn to those who are open, gracious and thankful. The same is, and should be, true of your professional relationships.

DeLores Pressley, is a motivational speaker, international keynote speaker, author, confidence coach and the CEO of DeLores Pressley Worldwide and Founder of UP Woman; a movement to empower women leaders. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a courageous life.

She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life,” “Believe in the Power of You” and “EMPOWER.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at (330) 649-9809 or visit her site at

Promoted to manager? Making the SHIFT

Moving from individual contributor to manager can be both rewarding and challenging. Many employees have not been given the tools they need to manage successfully and deal with employees’ challenges. The SHIFT Process™ is one way a new manager can plot a roadmap for helping employees (and their own career) to be more successful.

Whether one of your employees brings you an issue, or you are driving your team toward their goals, or you are struggling with how best to manage under difficult circumstances, these five steps will help bring clarity and focus for you.

Specify the desired outcome. Start by defining what you do want — the success definition. Many managers know what they don’t like or don’t want. They know what they want to move away from. But few have determined what success should look like and how they will measure a positive outcome. Take the time to write out both quantitative and qualitative measurements. Paint the picture of what you want.

Highlight the obstacles and categorize them. Too many managers shy away from talking about the things that get in the way of success. “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” is a common management mantra.

But if you don’t highlight the obstacles and gather them, how will you know what plans you need to make to get around them? Doing a laundry list of obstacles is unhelpful, though, unless you also categorize them: What can you control? What can you influence? What’s out of your control? Focus on those things you can control and influence, and put the non-controllable ones to the side.

Identify the human factor. What derails most well-laid plans? The human beings putting them in place. People who don’t get along or don’t understand what’s asked of them,or aren’t skilled to do what’s required. A good manager has best allocated the human resources. Knowing each person’s strengths and areas for improvement and how best to deploy them is critical.

Take time also to identify your stakeholders. Who can help you and who can hurt you in the process of getting to your goals? Be sure to involve them as appropriate.

Find the alternatives. There is never just one way to get to a goal. Some managers get fixated on how it has to be instead of dealing with the variety of options they have. First set criteria for decision-making — how will you know which alternatives might get you to the success outcomes and overcome the obstacles? You will need to measure them against criteria such as costs, human capital, ease of implementation, etc.

Once you have the criteria, you want to brainstorm your options. Which one best meets your criteria?

Take disciplined action. Once you know the option you want to pursue, create a clear step-by-step plan. Document exactly what needs to be done, who will do it and when and how much each step might cost. Delegate steps to people and be clear about deliverables.

Beverly D. Flaxington is the author of Make Your Shift: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get to Where YOU Want to Go and creator of the trademarked S.H.I.F.T. Process ™. She is a three-time bestselling and Gold-award winning author, a management consultant, a successful entrepreneur, a former COO and managing director and a college professor at Suffolk University. Visit; find her books on Amazon and

Jack Ouellette shares leadership lessons from the military and American Textile


There’s an enormous difference between intelligence and wisdom, says Jack Ouellette, chairman of American Textile Co.

“When you’re first learning leadership skills, you can intellectualize, but over time — and unfortunately that’s what wisdom requires — you take the rough edges off of the ideas,” he says.

Ouellette, who retired from his CEO duties at American Textile in 2013 after 39 years at the company, hopes his leadership style is like a vintage wine that got better over time — becoming more mellow and self-confident.

During his time at American Textile, he increased sales from $8 million to $200 million; oversaw expansion from a 100,000-square-foot facility to four U.S. facilities and one El Salvadoran facility with a combined total of 850,000 square feet; and enhanced brand and product development.

But when Ouellette looks back to his days as an officer at West Point and in the Army, he sees a few leadership lessons that were true then, and even more so now that he’s seen them applied again and again in business. He served for nine years, achieving the rank of captain, and flew reconnaissance aircraft in Vietnam.

Ouellette shared five of these lessons during his keynote speech at the Nov. 10 Smart 50 Pittsburgh event, which recognized some of the city’s smartest CEOs and their companies.

Take care of your people and they’ll take care of you

When Ouellette was a battery commander, he participated in a live training exercise in Germany. He was supposed to lead the six howitzers in his command to a position so they could start firing.

He found a spot, had the guns set up and performed some complicated math to ensure he knew their exact location.

Then, the first sergeant, who had 30 years experience in artillery, came up to Ouellette and said, “Sir, all the guns are facing north. They are supposed to be facing south.”

Ouellette asked for help, and the first sergeant promised to take care of it.

He went to the guns, and called all six gun leaders and said, “Gentlemen, the battery commander was not happy with the way we performed this. What I want you to do is to follow me and the battery commander will get a new target. And let’s come back here like the professionals I know you are.”

Don’t think you’re the smartest guy in the room, says Ouellette. You need to create an environment of credibility and trust so your employees can let you know when something is wrong.

“Take care of your people and they will take care of you,” he says. “The best leadership examples that we’ve ever observed come from the people reporting to you, rather than the other way around.”

Jack Ouellette was only one of the executives at our Smart 50 Pittsburgh event who offered their perspective on leadership. In this short video, CEOs from some of the top companies in Pittsburgh share their thoughts on the role of a leader and how they can create a positive, productive culture.


You need to recognize your team for their successes and allow them to breathe in times of failure, Ouellette says.

Over controlling rarely gets the best results

When Ouellette was in flight school on his first time up in an airplane, he had trouble keeping the plane at 4,000 feet as he was ordered. He kept going above and below — porpoising — his target.

His instructor told him: It takes a light touch, several iterative corrections and patience for the corrections to take.

Ouellette has also found that to be very true with people, which is the currency of leadership.

“The best leaders are those who are outwardly focused. And by that, I mean they are not thinking about themselves all the time. They are thinking about two things: the mission and the people on the team,” he says.

People in leadership positions who make it about them all of the time are just not as effective.

“Good leaders always get the best possible result,” Ouellette says “but it’s great leaders who get the best possible result and leave nobody behind.”

You need courage to trust others in your organization, while realizing that some of them are better equipped to handle a certain situation than you, Ouellette says.

There’s a fine line between controlling and over controlling. And there can be adverse effects on your staff when you cross it.

He also recommends learning how to control yourself before you try to control others.

When good enough is good enough

When Ouellette was in U.S. Army Ranger School, he and his buddy finished the final grueling exercise.

They hopped on a truck to go back to base and were finally able to get a little bit warm. But they decided to take it one step further.

They lit a sterno can and fell asleep with it under their ponchos — burning a hole right through.

“Have you found yourself in a situation where you are searching for perfection, instead of good enough?” Ouellette says. “Patton once said, ‘A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.’”

Stick to telling the truth even when it’s difficult

Unlike the torturous battles our leaders faced in the Vietnam prisoner of war camps, most of the battles we face as leaders aren’t physically painful. But the emotional and mental battles to get results may seem equally challenging. Want to know the guiding force that kept my comrades and me unified while the enemy was trying to systematically divide and disable us?

It was the bond brought by our efforts to live up to the Military Code of Conduct, six articles articulated on a single page. Most of us had memorized this code in our early training, and it was a powerful reminder to choose the harder right and serve with honor.

Over the years, I’ve created my personal honor code — a set of articles that helps guide my life and work. Article 1 of my Honor Code is, “Tell the truth even when it’s difficult. Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior.”

Truth is foundational for science and law; without absolute truth in these disciplines, we couldn’t maintain or achieve more as a society. Most people grow as adults wanting to be known as honorable and trustworthy. Having an awareness of this short list of common “lie generators” will help us guard our character:

  • Fear of negative consequences. Consider the many headlines of politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, judges, pro athletes, media personalities and literally every role in society that lie when caught in a transgression.
  • Fear of not looking good or good enough. Insecure people will lie to enhance or protect their image. The tendency to stretch or shade the truth is a commonly used protective strategy. The root issue is pride.
  • Fear of losing. Using lies to promote oneself and smear others has become an accepted tactic in many areas of our society — especially in politics. Where is the honor?
  • Ideological spin. This problem uses a half-truth or lie to advance a cause. Our communist captors boldly declared that, “Truth is that which most benefits the party.” And on that basis, they routinely tortured POWs to sign false propaganda lies.

Regardless of the daily opportunities to misrepresent the truth or lie, we must all remain vigilant and choose the truth to get the best results for us, our teams and our society.

Here are three things you can do to master Article 1 of the Honor Code:

  1. Set the example by telling the truth even when it’s hard.
  2. Talk to others about why the truth is so critical to trust and organizational effectiveness.
  3. Bring out the truth to expose those who are telling lies.

Lee Ellis is president of Leadership Freedom LLC and a former Vietnam War POW.

How local business executives lead their organizations to success


It’s awards season for Smart Business Columbus.

We have four winners who were honored at our inaugural Smart Women event from a group of strong finalists.

Three specialty award winners were selected for the 2015 class of Smart 50, which were announced at the end of October.

Junior Achievement is inducting two business leaders into its Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame this month.

And the Medical Mutual Pillar Awards for Community Service are just around the corner.

So, what makes these business executives rise to the top? They are leaders — leaders who promote gender equality, spark innovation, nurture business continuity and more.

They might do it differently, but they each know how to inspire their employees, structure their organizations and work with their clients to generate long-term success.

Leadership is a term that can be overused in business, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Let’s take a look at what these business executives have to say about their organizations and leadership.


col_HallOfFame_logoCentral Ohio Business Hall of Fame

2015 Inductees

col_cs_BillIngram_HOFEdgar W. “Bill” Ingram III
Chairman of the Board and CEO
White Castle Systems Inc.

White Castle Systems Inc. is going to hit the 100-year mark under its fourth generation of leadership.

E.W. “Bill” Ingram III will step down as CEO at the end of this year, while staying on as chairman of the board. His daughter Lisa Ingram will move up from president to CEO.

He’s not sure what his grandfather’s expectations were for the company, but Ingram says he would probably be surprised. In fact, for many years, Ingram was the only family member with White Castle; now they have more than a dozen of family members involved.

Ingram says they’ve heard from others who have attempted it that it’s very difficult to keep up that kind of sustainability.

“We understood that if we were to do that, it would be very unusual, and that it was important to put a lot of thought and work into that idea. So we did start, a long time ago, working toward that goal,” he says.

A family atmosphere

Looking at it realistically, if they sold the business, the shareholders would make a lot more money. So Ingram worked with the shareholders to make sure management understood their concerns and that the shareholders were on board with maintaining White Castle as a family business.

It’s certainly something that many of the employees have come to expect.

“All of the team members who have worked here for years and years — this is the only thing they’ve known,” Ingram says.

White Castle has a reputation for retention, because the family atmosphere is something that many people want in an employer, he says. The company annually celebrates employees who have been with the company for 25 years, and this year around 85 people hit that mark.

In addition, in a family business, Ingram has found that it’s very important to set an example as a leader.

Ingram says he used to visit every restaurant and factory once a year. His employees just wanted him to acknowledge that it was important to visit them.

“When I started doing that, I’d meet people, team members, who this was their first job working behind the counter and now they’re in high management positions within the company,” he says.

5 tips for being a better leader

Vistage, Great Lakes region

Leadership is something that seems to be a bit esoteric. Some are of the opinion that there are people who were just born to be natural leaders. Others hold to the theory that anyone can be taught to excel in positions of authority. The reality is that there is no right answer and both statements can be true.

To achieve business success, an organization or group will only go as far as the person put in the highest position of leadership can take it. There have been countless studies on the qualities that an individual will need to possess to be successful when placed in an authoritative role. For those who didn’t enter the world with the ability to lead people or companies into greatness, there are ways to brush up your skills in this area.

1. Communication is key

While it’s important to lead by example, leaders must also be vocal. Entrepreneur writes that the best leaders are always those who can be heard and whose instructions and directives are easily understood.

It’s also important, however, to be good at listening. Communication goes both ways and leaders should be effective at both delivering information and taking it in.

2. Imitation is the best form of flattery

Those individuals who weren’t born with the natural ability to lead should model their behaviors and actions after someone who is, according to a Forbes article by Alex McClafferty. By mimicking the behavior of someone who excels at leadership, these traits can be quickly adopted and help make you stronger in this area.

3. Keep emotions in check

Being placed in a position of authority, at times, can be overwhelming; triggering an emotional response that isn’t always positive and can diminish one’s standing as a leader.

Entrepreneur suggests that individuals always be mindful of their thoughts and feelings. At the core of leadership are relationships. An emotional outburst triggered by external pressures can have far reaching consequences, such as diminishing one’s standing as an authority figure.

4. Be someone others can trust

With leadership comes a massive amount of responsibility. People placed in this role must be conscious of the fact that there are people who look up to and trust them.

Switch and Shift writes that it’s important for leaders to always keep their word. If errors are made, own up to them. If you commit to something, do it. If you happen to disappoint someone or can’t follow through, be sure to apologize.

Being trustworthy can often be an overlooked aspect of leadership, but it shouldn’t be. The more that people trust you as a leader, the easier it will be to get them to accept your role and follow directives.

5. Understand that you can always be better

After being placed in a position of power or authority, some people adopt the mindset that they’ve reached the pinnacle and, therefore, there’s nothing more for them to learn. This attitude and mindset can be dangerous.

Entrepreneur writes that there are always new skills that can be mastered or some area of leadership that can be worked on. Keeping an open mind mitigates stagnation and helps personal growth. For those who have been tabbed as leaders, this is critical.

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but authority figures should never feel that they know everything and have no need to gain new knowledge.

Knowing when to quit

One of Ingram’s biggest lessons from his long career leading the family business is that you have to be flexible and change with the times.

“We try experiments from time to time, and sometimes they don’t work,” he says. “And just because it doesn’t work in one instance doesn’t mean it’s not going to work a decade in the future.”

One of the most successful has been selling its restaurant products in grocery stores. White Castle was one of the first to do this, and now the frozen food cases are stocked with restaurant products.

The hardest part about trying something new, however, is realizing when to let go. If it’s not working, Ingram says you may want to stick with it, and often that’s not the right thing to do.

Many of your experiments are going to fail — sometimes more than once. White Castle has fooled around with the concept of two brands under one roof, Ingram says, a couple of different times, but it really hasn’t worked very well either time they’ve tried it.

“In my experience, you should probably quit sooner than you did,” he says.



col_cs_CurtisJewell_HOFCurtis Jewell
Chairman and CEO
EXCEL Management Systems

At age 72, Curtis Jewell, chairman and CEO of EXCEL Management Systems, is going strong, but he’s stepped back from the front line. He’s coaching, but doesn’t want to be the No. 1 sales person.

Over the years, he has made connections and tried to walk the walk. Jewell grew up in the country, in a southern household like television’s “The Waltons.”

“That integrity and taking care of your neighbor and you know, being involved in the community was just natural with us always,” he says.

“That’s the good news of being an entrepreneur all your life and coming from an entrepreneur family — you don’t have to hedge, you don’t have to lie, you don’t have to sneak, you don’t have to take shortcuts,” Jewell says. “Because you learn that you’re going to win more than you lose by telling the truth.”

Win more than you lose

To Jewell, leadership is setting an example by taking risks and giving more than receiving. He doesn’t try to litigate everything or get every little piece.

“You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some,” he says “But you’ll win far more than you lose if you approach life, and people the right way. It’s all in style. It’s all in integrity. It’s all in honesty and openness.”

Jewell gives his employees space, trusting them to do the right thing and complete what needs to be done, because people are basically trustworthy, he says. He also expects his executives to own their area of the business within the enterprise.

“We are in the problem-solving business, so I expect whatever the issue is we’ll solve it,” Jewell says. “So I try to encourage my employees always to not be shy of telling me what’s been going on, regardless of what kind of day they’re having.

“I don’t run emergency rooms. I don’t run surgical suites. I don’t run operations where one mistake will kill somebody. So you can make a mistake, and we’ll correct the mistake and go on and learn from it.”

Mentoring others

Jewell likes to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, because so many people helped him. For example, Robert Lazarus Jr. of Lazarus department stores first brought him to Columbus in the 1970s to head up a community substance abuse treatment center. Lazarus had Jewell serve on numerous community boards, and he enjoyed rolling up his sleeves, serving a higher purpose.

So, what are some things that Jewell advises younger people?

He says youngsters must understand whether they are trying to build a business to have a job or wealth. It’s two separate approaches to life and business.

At the same time, he doesn’t advocate young entrepreneurs bringing in investors. In Jewell’s opinion, it’s better to use loans and lines of credit.

“The first thing they want to do is get a partner with their friend, or their cousin or somebody,” he says. “And the next thing, they go under, because (the) two personalities are different.”

As someone involved in wider community leadership, particularly children’s causes, Jewell exposes his employees to activism because he believes you don’t need to build wealth to start giving back.

He also tries to connect organizations, so they aren’t rolling over each other trying to get donations.

The same goes for people. Jewell says that race relations are still stove piped in Columbus, but as a businessman he travels in all circles and he wishes more people would get out of their comfort zone.

“It’s not necessarily due to malice,” he says “It’s just people are historically moving in the circles that they’re used to, and they are overwhelmingly one black and one white. I don’t like that.”