What it takes to be a leader

Oct. 8, 2007
Learn personnel management strategies from the former CEO of Porsche. It's what you get out of the supporting staff that makes your organization excel.

While every company has its standout employees, a good manager gets the entire crew focused and motivated to achieve excellence, says Peter Schutz, former CEO of Porsche A.G., and guest speaker at the management roundtable held for the first time during the Emerson Global Users Exchange on September 10-14 in Grapevine, Texas. With today’s dwindling engineering workforce, it becomes even more important to get the most out of each employee.

“My formal training is as an engineer,” he explained. “My favorite philosopher is Yogi Berra, who said, ‘you can observe a lot if you just watch.’”

To gain competitive advantage in today’s business world, “you need to learn how to get extraordinary results out of basically ordinary people,” Schutz says. Every company has its super stars, but they need everyone else’s support to succeed. “If you fail to provide a supporting cast of enthusiastic and motivated people, you will lose the super stars,” he warns.

He likens the job of leading people to that of being a parent. “If you can find a correlation between their dreams and what they do, they will be motivated. At other times, they need discipline,” he says. Not only do you need to be like a parent, but you also must be a good communicator, an accountant and lawyer. When unexpected situations arise, you are expected to deal with them.

“When we manage, when we lead an organization, we must make plans and then implement them,” says Schutz, a lecturer on leadership and business management and author of “The Driving Force,” which also is available as a video. Don’t get in a hurry when planning. Take all the time you need, otherwise the plan won’t be implemented. “Implementation is the hard part,” he says. The best plans you will ever make are the hardest to implement because there is always someone who can find many reasons why it can't be done.

A pit crew is what Schutz calls implementation. Every member of a pit crew has a specific job and within a matter of seconds, the car gets back in the race. “To implement in a truly effective manner, you have to do that part of the job in a dictatorship type of manner, but in a participative democratic process,” he explains.

“This participative process will try the patience of a saint. There will be times you need to compromise what you know is really best.”

“Cars don’t win races,” Schutz stresses. “People and the way they work together for a common cause do.”

The founders of FedEx are a good example, says Schutz. They were interested in flying planes, and came up with an idea to track packages through a central location in Memphis, Tenn. They realized they would have to build a large distribution facility.

They took their idea to the top executives of UPS, who said it was a crazy idea and it wouldn't work. Look where FedEx is today.

Using another analogy, Schutz compared business to football. Neither one is rocket science, he says. Flawless implementation of the fundamentals is most frequently the foundation of success.

However, to achieve that success, the plan can’t be implemented until every member of the team completely understands their role. If everyone isn’t on board, don’t start implementing. “Always start every new project with a short review and build on it,” he recommends. Never let people forget what it is that you do best.

Schutz served as Porsche's CEO fron 1981 to 1988, during which time the company’s worldwide sales grew from 28,000 units to more than 53,000 units. Revenues grew from $85 million to $3.7 billion. Prior to his tenure at Porsche, he served 15 years at Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Peoria, Ill. He also spent 11 years at Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Ind., including eight years as vice president of sales service of truck engines in the U.S. and Canada.

E-mail Managing Editor Ken Schnepf at [email protected].