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Some time back I went to a World Masters of Business conference starring ex-communist Mikhail Gorbachev, self-confessed capitalist Al ‘chainsaw’ Dunlap and rambo capitalist, ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, I have to say it was a doctor who stole the show.

Don't get me wrong, I loved hearing Gorby talk, despite doing it via an interpreter. Call me an historian, but world leaders who kill off communism in the home of communism commands interest, if not respect.

However, lots of Aussies can't help themselves – they just have to be cynics. This national characteristic raised its unattractive head prior to the World Masters of Business talkfest.

One inquiring mind posed the question: “What would Mikhail Gorbachev know about business? Look at how he left Russia.”

While another wondered what Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf would know about cash flow management and customer service.

Of course, he has had some experience in the business of delivering grief to the enemies of the US with maximum efficiency. However, the fair question remains, “What can these international leaders tell local business owners and employees about business?”.

The answer was indirectly made clear to me at a breakfast briefing I attended. It was hosted by recruiters and human resource experts, Davidson & Associates (D&A). Bill Cowan, who was then the managing director of the firm, made an intriguing point.

He said that D&A had been holding breakfast speeches for some time, but it didn't take long before most at the firm thought they had explored all the hot topics for early-rising, hungry students of business.

However, they kept holding their AM get-togethers because attendees' feedback indicated that everyone couldn’t get enough on the subject of what Gorbie and Normie are long on – leadership.

It is leadership that teaches employees the most. A screaming dictator will inevitably create bossy staff who establish plans to lead customers where no shopper ever wants to go.

It is leadership when a member of staff is given responsibility to participate in some leadership. It not only teaches them to handle responsibility, it also helps them understand the position of the owners who have to lead, despite their natural inclinations.

One reasonably big small business proprietor told me that he stopped carrying his mobile phone so his troops could make their own decisions. It was not a high-risk strategy, he argued, as he put a lot of time into training his staff. All he had to do after that was to give them a chance.

He reckons he is now working less and making more money! He confesses to being perplexed about the success of his young manager and salespeople because he always believed that no one knew his business better than he did.

That could be true for many operations but other people might simply be better at running the show than the owner. It takes a true leader to objectively assess the quality of his or her team and consider a backward step to take a profitable leap forward. Mastering business is about mastering leadership.

So what about that talkfest?


Stormin' Norman gave memorable leadership rules which inspired me to take control at home. Unfortunately, my son went to the conference too, so it simply meant he sharpened up his already superior leadership skills.

For the record, Schwarzkopf gave many valuable hints on effective leadership which he said were relevant for all of us, as we are all leaders. Some of us lead businesses, others head up sporting teams, schools, associations, religious groups and families.

The two standout commands come from the US Army manual. The first he gave was Rule 13: When placed in command, take charge.

Schwarzkopf says when he made mistakes he eventually heard back from the troops because he listened to them. It meant he eventually got it right if he erred in the first place.

And then there's Rule 14: Do what's right. He warns about trying to second guess others who have influence over you and becoming a slave to popularity polls.

Al ‘chainsaw’ Dunlap was unique character. Dunlap hates the media and taxing governments that stand in the way of mergers and great business ideas. He did not say it, but he implied he was not a great fan of Commies.

If ever a movie was made of his downsizing life and times, Jack Nicholson would have to play Dunlap. I can see him using the Few Good Men line, though slightly altered – “I eat breakfast 300 metres from Commie journos all trained to kill my business career.”

That said, he gave some very enlightening business tips and the audience appreciated his advice.

The big hit with the audience was Aussie doctor and former Hawthorn footballer, John Tickell. Author of A Passion for Living as well as Laughter, Sex, Vegetables and Fish, Tickell is a sought-after speaker on the US business blabfest circuit and he is good.

Apart from being a near-stand up comic, more importantly, he makes those of us in business and for that matter, those in life recognise how stupid we are with our diets and lifestyles.

His provocative though amusing communication style rammed home the message that you are the most important asset your business has got but you are mismanaging yourself. Your life, if it could think, probably sees it that way too.

To learn more about how Switzer Business Coaching can help you and your business, book for a complimentary one hour business assessment with one of our expert business coaches today!

Published on: Monday, August 24, 2009

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