I knew a great man once. He had amassed a great fortune growing his own company. Loyal friends and supporters surrounded him. He asked me to consult by taking a look at his business and giving him feedback. His friends and loyal supporters were fearful and jealous. I only had to test it once – I said something that could be interpreted several ways to one subordinate and soon his team had used that to launch an ejection campaign to remove me. I asked him if he believed I would say something negative to a subordinate without a purpose and he said “goodbye.”

Your subordinates have an interest in keeping you the way you are and they don’t like you changing for the better.

But if you want to do the one thing that will change everything, you must become the person who achieves success through others. You must become extremely interested in supporting those who work at your company to achieve their own successes. You must serve their higher good and achieve results through them. This is the fundamental change in thinking that our offshore competitors are hoping we never discover.

Simply commit to change your mind and your actions will fall into line over time behind that. And eventually people will give up and allow you to change.


A good starting definition for respect is, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It seems like a fitting definition when we think about the leaders we have known – those we respect and those we do not.

But thinking more deeply about the subject, we may realize that we never found it easy to respect those who did not respect us. Leaders are able to trigger deep-seated memories – you might even say “cellular memories” – memories that are so engrained into our consciousness (even though many of these might be subconscious) and beliefs that we can hardly escape the similarities between the leader and those earlier memories.

Leaders can trigger memories of mistreatment by a parent, a teacher, a bully, a boss, and more. Anytime someone has a natural “positional power” over you – one born of an organizational chart – they automatically become the victim of the negative memories of those they lead.

And so people come to work pre-disposed to react poorly to a leader who doesn’t show respect.

And, it could be said that people crave respect more than they are willing to give it.

While leaving a club late in the city, we walked to the valet stand where a single young man stood ready to retrieve our car. As we stood in the street waiting we became aware of several young men and a woman moving toward us across the street. They walked up to us and stood closely to address us. They were dressed as people who might have lived on the street or in a car for while. They seemed nervous – asking where we had come from and what we were waiting for. It was clear that they were desperate and intended to do us harm. The respect we showed them disarmed them. Our kindness and fearlessness brought back memories of a parent or teacher who also respected them. Their conviction to act was softening. We asked if they needed help and their immediate reaction was “no” but after consideration they said they could use some money. We gave them $20 and they thanked us profusely and moved away with fond farewells.

Respect is so rare in the world as to disarm those who have all but given up their pursuit of it.

The “Urban Dictionary” defines respect as…

“It means valuing each others points of views. It means being open to being wrong. It means accepting people as they are. It means not dumping on someone because you’re having a bad day. It means being polite and kind always, because being kind to people is not negotiable. It means not dissing people because they’re different to you. It means not gossiping about people or spreading lies.”

Leaders who are disrespectful to others collect followers who are willing to be disrespected. Over time, anyone who truly respects themselves will find other places to be leaving those who do not.

What kinds of people are attracted to leaders who have a fundamental respect for others?

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
Jackie Robinson

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.
Bruce Lee

It’s true that people are prone to respect a principled leader – a leader with character.

Some textbook definitions for character are:

  1. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
  2. One such feature or trait; characteristic.
  3. Moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
  4. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
  5. Reputation: a stain on one’s character.

The best leaders have a “code” of sorts – a list of values that they intend to use to guide their actions. Some typical values to live by as a leader are:

Integrity – I’m going to say what I mean and do what I say.

Honesty – I’m going to be straight-forward with my feelings and intentions.

Respectful – I’m going to respect and be kind to everyone and not allow fear or anger to get the best of me.

You may have a more extensive list of values but the point is, even if you were to fully accomplish these three, most people would follow you to the ends of the earth.

If you develop your own personal “code” and focus on evaluating yourself daily on how you exemplified your values, you would find that the reaction you begin to see from others would re-enforce your commitment to change.


Leading a small business is a different challenge from leading a larger business. But both jobs require some of the same skills and qualities, just exercised on a much smaller scale.

Having people follow you out of respect is a rewarding experience. Leading others correctly make a huge contribution to hundreds of workers and in turn their families. Those who work for you take good examples of leadership home. The impact of good leadership is felt at work as well as at home.

Good leadership makes a contribution to everyone and develops leadership within your own business. A good bench strength of leadership in your business multiplies your benefits because the lack of good leadership in small business severely constrained the building of a high-performance enterprise.


Perfect Performance


How likely is it that someone in your market will begin to deliver 100% on-time and zero PPM quality? What would happen if several suppliers began to do that? Would that affect your customer’s expectations for your performance? It’s already happening.

I used to go to the cleaners for my shirts and dry cleaning. I remember that I would either go in early before work and right after work. But everyone else had the same constraints so there we were waiting in line to check in our clothes and pickup with 10 other people and one person at the desk working very hard to make sure we didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes.

But then I happened to move and change cleaners, and the new place had three people at the counter and no waiting even at peak hours. That seemed like heaven and I would never go back to a place that couldn’t do that for me.

But then one day someone came to my home and said they would give me the same service and pricing, and pick up my cleaning and laundry at my convenience.

After that, I would never go back to bundling up my cleaning, putting it in the car, and then taking my precious time to take it over to the cleaners. I was hooked on the time savings and convenience of home service. And there was more than one choice so the best quality and fastest turnaround became my primary criteria.

I know a lot of cleaning places went out of business because they could not foresee a time when home delivery would become the norm and at the same prices.

What happened to Blockbuster when Netflix began delivering movies to your home with no late fees and a lower price for more convenience? What happened to any major video rental place?

What were booksellers doing when Amazon started selling books online?

And what were computer retailers doing when Dell computer started taking orders and custom-building your computer and shipping it the same day?

Every industry has to look ahead and realize what changes are inevitable. And even though our first reaction is, “That’s impossible,” as leaders we have to refuse to accept that things are impossible because history tells us that it is highly likely that someone else will prove us wrong. Leadership then is accepting the “impossible” and setting a goal to achieve it.

Let’s consider what changes are inevitable in our aerospace and defense industry.

  1. 100% on-time delivery – in the past we have only been able to think about this through adding inventory – more raw materials if our suppliers had long lead times, and more finished goods if our customers needed near 100% performance. But many of us have almost lost our business going down that path. Carrying costs are the “silent killer” – add $2,000,000 in inventory raw or finished goods and you’ll add 20% per year in carrying costs – $400,000 per year. (the gift that keeps on giving) And what do we typically collect from our customer to offset that cost? Perhaps a thank you but we are rarely in a position to charge for this service because we realize that we’re only doing it because the customer has asked us to deliver on-time and we can’t without inventory. But we begin to notice that our margin, what’s left of it, is dwindling away because carrying cost doesn’t show up on a line in your P&L, it just hides itself everywhere on your financial statement – hiding in plain sight. The customer has very good reasons to ask and expect us to adapt – they are implementing moving production lines and can’t tolerate late parts and assemblies. They’re looking for suppliers who can help them.
  2. Zero PPM – how did that ever become a reality? Or it is? When we realize that production lines for our customers are going to be very fast and lean, we begin to realize that they’re setting up a condition where a single part could stop workflow – and each of those delays could cost the customer millions of dollars! It’s been reported that the new Honda Jet will employ automotive suppliers for most of its supply chains. Automotive suppliers have operated at 100% on-time and zero PPM for many years. Charge Backs have been appearing more and more often. Someone has to pay that additional cost for a part or assembly that isn’t right when it gets to the customer. In 1985, Bill Smith at Motorola published a paper that would later be used by Mikel Harry to found the Six Sigma Institute. The birth of Six Sigma came as a result of the realization that Motorola’s customers could not tolerate the levels of quality previously considered adequate or even good. At 3.4 part per million, cost and customer satisfaction continuously improved. Most aerospace suppliers are accustomed to operating at 2,000 PPM or more. Drawing a line between where we are and what it will cost our customers for suppliers to remain where they are, you arrive at a point where you cannot connect the dots. Suppliers must achieve six sigma levels of quality and charge-backs will continue to exist to re-enforce that reality – the customer is saying, “Somebody has to pay for this and it’s not going to be us.” Now faced with the cost or even part of the cost of a flight test gone wrong, many suppliers will have no choice but to go out of business.


Because these changes represent a clear and present danger to suppliers, I recommend that we adopt 100% on-time and zero PPM as either a short or long range goal. Depending on your current state, you might have to make this a long range goal but the most important thing is that you have a culture and capability to continuously improve metrics toward that goal. If you don’t allocate the resources to make improvement to the goal a reality, how will you convince your customer that you’re on board with what they will need and demand in the future?