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The Power of Total Commitment: A Leader's Legacy

The Power of Total Commitment: A Leader's Legacy

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The Power of Total Commitment: A Leader's Legacy

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1 мая 2015 г.


The Power of Total Commitment uses a story format to teach what was discovered when Marshall Goldsmith and Frank Wagner were tasked by the IBM Corporation to research and design a program around the Excellent Manager. IBM had been referenced quite extensively as an excellent company in the groundbreaking book In Search of Excellence. That book focu
1 мая 2015 г.

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The Power of Total Commitment - Frank Wagner





Second Edition


Copyrighted Material

The Power of Total Commitment

Copyright © 2015 by Frank Wagner. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise—without prior written permission from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

For information about this title or to order other books and/or electronic media, contact:

Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching




9780986324819 (print)

9780986324802 (e-book)

Printed in the United States of America


To all those whose commitment inspired this book, especially my immediate family


Preface for Second Edition

Foreword to First Edition by Ken Blanchard

Foreword to Second Edition by Jim Kouzes

1.   The Legacy of Commitment

2.   Focus on What’s Important

3.   Lead by Example

4.   Reward Success

5.   Manage Disrespect

6.   Focus on the Unimportant

7.   Follow the Lead

8.   Challenge Success

9.   Be Disrespectful

10. Uncharted Waters

Preface for Second Edition

T he beginnings of this book go back to the early 1980s. Then, members of the management development staff at IBM asked Marshall Goldsmith, one of my partners, and me to develop a workshop building on the ideas found in McKinsey & Company’s Excellent Company Study. Out of this study an amazingly popular book was written titled In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman.

The best-selling book described the attributes of excellent companies that had achieved long-term success and status in the marketplace. This work seemed to indirectly offer insights into the actions of individual managers who worked inside these successful companies. Taking these ideas as a starting place, and using McKinsey’s methodology of selecting companies with the best reputations for enduring success, we spent time with individual managers who had earned their own reputation for lasting success.

Based on the results of our analysis we developed a workshop for IBM called The Excellent Manager. I am deeply indebted to Marshall for his partnership on this work. And, I cannot be more proud of what he has done for the profession of leadership development over the subsequent thirty years.

Also, with this project we were equally indebted to those managers we studied so many years ago. Their insights into leadership and the example they set in their own actions guided the development of the framework we uncovered. This early work helped pinpoint the half-dozen key commitments effective leaders consistently maintain.

Missing from our initial efforts was a simple framework linking these commitments together. At first, each commitment seemed to be achieved by a somewhat different set of behaviors. At the time I took on the task of writing up what we had come to realize were the underlying principles and practices of commitment, I relied heavily on the support of my two business partners, Chris Coffey and Gerry Rossy. Their support was instrumental in coming up with the contents of this book.

During the writing of this book, in the late 1980s, my undying gratitude goes out to my patient wife, Karen, who had to put up with all those hours sitting in front of my PC. Once ready for review, my wife and now deceased father were incredible at picking up not only the obvious mistakes but also the very subtle ones. My good friend, Father Bruno Segatta, painted the delightful original paintings that make this book worthwhile in their own right. Bruno, to this day, is a truly gifted artist. He has the talent to paint a picture in many media, whether on canvas, clay, or conversation.

Ken Blanchard, in his usual style, was a great role model for everything from how to get an idea across to what ideas to have in the first place. Ken is a giant in this field because of who he is as a person. How blessed could someone be to meet him when I was getting started in the field of leadership. I am indebted to him for writing the foreword to the first edition of this book.

Jim Kouzes, like Ken, is a rare breed who not only has the scholarship and insight needed to be a contributor at the highest level in our field of leadership, but he is also a genuine example of what is a leader in his own actions. Jim was equally kind to write the foreword to this second edition of the book.

Foreword to First Edition

W hen Frank Wagner asked me to read his manuscript, the first thing it reminded me of was a deeply held belief I have formed from years of practical experience. Many of the crises we face today in our personal and professional growth are not due to lack of leadership…they are based on a lack of commitment. We have done a pretty good job of teaching leadership and influence skills over the past few decades. We have done a much poorer job in the area of commitment.

Commitment is one of the most important things we can possess. It is also an easy thing to recognize in people. Looking inward we also have a pretty good sense of when we are committed and when we are not. When we stop to think about how we actually demonstrate our commitments, here is where things become much more complex. This is where The Power of Total Commitment comes in handy. It helps build a perspective and understanding of this critical component to success. We all live up to our commitments to some degree. The lessons from this book reinforce what we now do well. Each chapter also points out what may be missing from our own behavior.

The method Frank uses to help introduce these important lessons is in the form of a story. Anyone who knows me and my work knows this is my preferred way to present a message. In the tradition of the One Minute Manager that I co-authored with Spencer Johnson, and The Power of Ethical Management which I wrote with Norman Vincent Peale, this program is a contemporary, adult allegory. It is a parable. Many of the principles from my work in helping people to grow can be found in this refreshing perspective on commitment. This pleases me immensely. Although the setting may cause the reader to think this a management book, it is a far cry more. The lessons from this parable apply equally well to family, business, community and oneself. To achieve lasting success in our lives we must faithfully live up to our commitment to ourselves and others.

Let me give you an example from my own personal life. I remember saying to a friend, Fred Finch, one time, Fred, I wish I was more organized. Fred replied, Ken, you are the most organized person I know when you’re committed to do something. You probably beat yourself up because you aren’t committed to do everything and yet you think you should be.

And, I thought about that—that is really interesting! Commitment is when you say that you’re going to do what you said you were going to do and you follow through. But, you can’t be committed to everything. I remember at that point I was beating myself up because I wasn’t losing weight and it was a very busy time. I said to myself, …you know what, I’m not going to commit about doing something about my weight right now. That was a big relief. We all want to personally experience a strong sense of commitment in our lives, and we get frustrated when we do not keep our commitments.

How about organizations? I do a lot of work for organizations and I also see the main issue there as commitment. For example, I get 150 or so annual reports every year from various companies we have worked with. And, in every report on the first page, there is a mention that without customers we would be nothing. The customers are the key to our success. Also, within a paragraph or so is always a statement that without our people we would be nothing. People, the people who work for us, are our most important resource. So, customers and people are getting the headlines in every organization.

When I go into these companies I’ll say, I see you’re committed to your customers and your people. Do you mind if I look at your management practices to see if you are really walking your talk? Are you keeping your commitment to your customers and people? And, it’s amazing how people become stutterers and really get upset because they aren’t walking their talk. I am convinced that organizations can be just as good as they dream of being if they keep their commitments. So, I think commitment, and what Frank is talking about, is so important for success in our lives and in our companies.

Ken Blanchard

Foreword to Second Edition

A few years ago I was on a panel with management educator and author, Ken Blanchard, who wrote the foreword to this book’s first edition. I was responding to an audience member’s question, and I began by saying, I don’t know what you call something that’s been the same for twenty-five years, but…. Before I could finish my sentence Ken interrupted, exclaiming, I’d call it the truth.

Ken’s witty observation was spot on, and his comment reinforced that some things about leadership are so valid and consistent—and don’t change that much over time—that they deserve to be called what they are, the truth.

That is exactly the reaction I had in reading Frank Wagner’s book, The Power of Total Commitment. While the first edition of this book was published a number of years ago, its messages are as fresh and as true today as they were when Frank originally told the story of Art, a recently retired CEO, and Sam, his protégé and new CEO. The Power of Total Commitment has stood the test of time. And, as the demographics of the workplace shift from Boomers to GenXers to Millennials, and as organizations become ever more diverse, these lessons seem downright prescient.

Three truths in particular stand out for me in reading Frank’s new edition.

The first truth is that values drive commitment. People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know your values and beliefs, what you really care about, and what keeps you awake at night. They want to know who most influenced you, the events that shaped your attitudes, and the experiences that prepare you for the job. They want to know what drives you, what makes you happy, and what ticks you off. They want to know what you’re like as a person, and why you want to be their leader. They want to know if you play an instrument, compete in sports, go to the movies, or enjoy the theater. They want to know about your family, what you’ve done, and where you’ve traveled. They want to understand your personal story. They want to know why they ought to be following you.

Values represent the core of who you are, and values are at the heart of Frank’s book. It’s where he begins because he knows that everything flows from there. Commitment, as Frank defines it, is about believing in something and then acting consistent with that belief. As Art tells Sam, The ability to focus on what’s important is essential to effective leadership and management.

It’s impossible to fully commit to something that isn’t important to you. You can’t fully commit to something that doesn’t fit with who you are and how you see yourself. In order to devote the time, to expend the energy, and to make the sacrifices necessary you have to know exactly what makes it worth doing in the first place.

Becoming a leader is a process of self-discovery. And, it’s the first part of Sam’s journey with Art. He helps Sam realize that there are a lot of different interests out there competing for your time, your attention, and your approval. Before you listen to those voices, you have to listen to that voice inside that tells you what’s truly important.

The second truth I was reminded of when reading The Power of Commitment is that you either lead by example, or you don’t lead at all. It’s what Sam learns in the second session with Art. My good friend and coauthor, Barry Posner, and I discovered early on in our research that credibility is the foundation of leadership. People have to believe in you if they are going to willingly follow you. People can’t commit to a leader who isn’t credible. And, what is credibility behaviorally? When we asked this question, the answer came back loud and clear: You must do what you say you will do.

Seeing is believing, and your constituents have to see you living out the standards you’ve set and the values you profess. You need to go first in setting the example for others. A big part of leading by example is keeping your promises. Your word is only as good as your actions. You have to realize that others look to you and your actions in order to determine for themselves how serious you are about what you say, as well as understanding what it will mean for them to be walking the talk. Your statements and actions are visible reminders to others about what is or is not important. As Sam says, I realized no one escapes from leading by example. The only question is, what example are we setting? Is it the one we really want, or do our actions reflect what really isn’t all that important?

Sam and Art develop a deep and binding relationship over the course of this book, and there are many other lessons that Sam learns on this voyage of self-discovery. Yet, it is this journey itself that highlights the third truth about which I was reminded. The truth is that the best leaders are the best learners.

Over the years Barry and I have conducted a series of empirical studies to find out if leaders could be differentiated by the range and depth of learning tactics they employ. We wanted to know if the way

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