Category Archives: Blog

Values-Based Leadership in Action!

One thing I enjoy tremendously is seeing values-based leadership in action. Over the years I have had the opportunity to witness many such instances, and I frequently share these “Real World” examples with my students and executives who attend my leadership talks and seminars. Often, I hear some great examples from my friends, colleagues, and students…and now I have an amazing example to share!!!

I received the below note, a true story, from one of my former Kellogg students. As you read the note, I would like to ask you to focus on a few questions:

  • Am I self reflective enough to even consider doing what this person did? (What are my values and what kind of impact do I want to make in the world during my life?)
  • Do I let the actions of others determine how I will react, or do I have a balanced perspective that enables me to determine how I will respond? (Am I proactive or reactive?)
  • Do I have the TRUE self confidence of this individual, enabling myself to be an example to others of what it really means to be a values-based leader? (Or am I overly concerned of what others would think of my actions?)
  • What does this story teach me about the power of GENUINE humility? (Isn’t it amazing the impact we can have on others when it is not “all about me”?)

I have read this story several times today…and I am more impacted by the words and message each time I read it!!!! To my student, thanks so much for sharing!!!

Defusing Anger with Kindness

The man stepped into the line for coffee right in front of me.

“Excuse me,” I said, “the line is behind me.” He didn’t turn or respond. I noticed that he was wearing headphones; he must not have heard me. I tapped him on his arm and repeated, “Excuse me, the line is behind me.”

“I know there is a line!” he turned and snapped angrily.

“Just making sure you knew,” I replied calmly.

“I know what a line is, you F**K!” he yelled, loudly enough for everyone in the cafe to hear.

“No need to cuss,” I chided gently.

Seething, the man got in the line two spots behind me, and we waited for our turn to order. After several minutes of waiting, my turn came. I ordered my usual latte. The baristas took the orders for the woman behind me, as well as the man who I had the confrontation with. By the time my turn to pay came, I had made up my mind:

“Yes, one latte,” I declared. “And I’m going to cover my friend there as well,” I added, pointing at the man. I paid for both of us. As I turned to walk away, I glanced at the man, and he said to me rather tersely,

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know,” I said, “but it seemed like you were having a bad day.”

We shook hands, and I walked over to the side to wait for my latte. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the guy who had been in line right in front of me. “That was classy, man,” he said. I nodded my thanks.


I share this story, professor, not to make myself appear noble or to win accolades. Rather, my intent is to use it as a portal to get into the mindset, the internal deliberations, that led to this outcome, and share my takeaways regarding the importance of cultivating certain attributes.

As I see it, this was essentially all about genuine humility and true self-confidence. I ask myself: Why did I not fly off the handle when the man swore at me? Alternatively, why did I not shrink into myself, embarrassed at being berated in public in such a manner? My answer is genuine humility and true self-confidence. A lack of humility can make people’s sense of pride overly sensitive to injury.  A large ego gets wounded easily: How DARE he swear at me?! This can lead quickly to anger and potentially an uncontrolled reaction. At the same time, I have to be truly self-confident to realize that the angry statements of a complete stranger cannot hurt or embarrass me. I remain calm and collected, recognizing that the issue is not with me, but with the gentleman who has decided to yell out abusive language in a public setting at a complete stranger. Therefore, I am able to remain in control of myself, and consequently, I am able to control the situation.

Staying calm and recognizing that I am in control then allows me to think beyond myself. Why did this man have an outburst? Is he having a bad morning? Is he simply a jerk? Or is he racist, his anger sparked by the sight of my brown skin? (This may seem like a ludicrous possibility to those who haven’t experienced racism, but I have.) Probably a multitude of other possibilities, but I am able to quickly get to an answer for myself: Regardless of the man’s motive, I have an opportunity to defuse his hate/anger with an act of generosity, of kindness, by buying his coffee for him. Not only is it a “nice thing to do”, it’s also extremely empowering. It leaves me feeling strong and grounded in the “courage of my convictions.”

It is my core belief that it’s the small actions that build one’s character. Pay attention to yourself — how you think, how you behave — when dealing with the seemingly small and insignificant events of daily life, and push yourself to do the “right thing” and be a change agent, no matter how uncomfortable it is.  Inevitably, you will find yourself muscled up and more prepared to do the heavy lifting when the big events occur. And if I can do it, anyone can do it.

Have a great weekend, all!

“Welcome to the Future, Dad… We’ve All Been Waiting for You!”

I loved my Blackberry. I purchased my “BB” twelve years ago, and it quickly became one of my best friends. I liked the size of the phone and absolutely LOVED the keyboard. Since I usually receive 300 to 400 emails a day, the keyboard was my lifeline. I decided that there was no way I would EVER give up my BB keyboard… those “touchscreen smartphone devices” would NOT enter my life. I recognized that there was a likely possibility that I could end up becoming the last person on Earth using a Blackberry, and that was absolutely fine with me.

Julie and my five children (each with his/her own smartphone) constantly teased me about my Blackberry on many topics:

“Dad, you cannot get ‘apps’ on that thing.”  (I decided that I didn’t need ‘apps’; I just did emails.)

“Dad, the pictures on your BB are terrible!”  (I only took about one picture a month, and the pictures looked fine to me!)

“Dad, it’s much easier to text on a smartphone.”  (I prefer email or actually speaking to someone on the phone 😉 )

“Dad, I cannot ‘Facetime’ you.”  (Not sure what that is, but you can always call me.)

“Dad, I cannot “SnapChat” you.  (Wasn’t really sure what that was either and didn’t give it much thought — until I learned the company went public earlier this month at a $24 BILLION market capitalization!!!)

Whenever I mentioned to my friend and colleague, Khalid Ali, that I really had no need for a smartphone, he always smiled and softly responded, “Harry, we really need to talk.” 😉

So, what happened last week!?!?!?!?!?! As you can see in the picture below, yes, it happened. I actually turned off my beloved BB and purchased an iPhone:

My daughter Shannon’s immediate reaction said it all: “Welcome to the FUTURE, Dad…we’ve all been waiting for you!!!”

I admit that this change will take a while to get used to. For example, I learned that I can now insert cartoons into my emails. (The children were quick to point out: “No, dad, those aren’t cartoons. They are ’emojis’.” Who came up with that word anyway?!)

So why did I give in and change to an iPhone? Some might say I had no choice. All of my colleagues at Madison Dearborn had made the switch, and my friends in IT let me know they were “pulling the plug” soon, which to me meant they were about to turn off my oxygen. If I was going to continue to receive emails, it wouldn’t be on my BB. Also, Khalid told me he would stop working with me if I didn’t dispose of my BB.

But I need to come clean and admit that I finally did see the value in making the change. Three examples immediately come to mind:

  1. Khalid’s urging that I could communicate much more effectively with my students and colleagues using iPhone apps for Facebook, LinkedIn, and maybe even Twitter.
  2. Using GPS is a lot more convenient than running into gas stations to ask for directions (you can imagine the awkward looks I’ve gotten doing that in this day and age!).
  3. After a recent dinner with 40 colleagues in San Francisco, everyone pulled out their smartphones and jetted out on Uber rides… while I waited a half hour for a cab!

So, yes, it was time.

Reading this many of you may be thinking: “Wow, Harry really has joined the future! No more ancient technology for this hip guy!” But not quite so fast…! Let me introduce you to my other favorite device, one that may be alien to many of my younger students and the older ones may not realize this technology still exists. I keep it a secret that not many folks know about (until now). No, not my BB. The device I am describing is very small, very convenient, can easily slip into a very small pocket, and needs very little battery charging. I can use it to make calls at the same time as I am reviewing emails and documents on my new iPhone. It’s called a Motorola flip phone:

I intend to keep this beauty with me ALWAYS.  So, maybe we should really call my transition “Back to the Future” 😉


Here’s wishing all of you a great Spring!!!

So How About Some Examples of Values-Based Leaders!

In my Northwestern Kellogg classes and executive presentations I am often asked for specific examples of “values-based leaders”. After I explain the importance of the four leadership principles (self reflection, balance, true self confidence, and genuine humility) a common question is…”Okay, so who are ‘those guys’?”  Yes, I do tell them that we are all “those guys” (for more on that check out my previous blog post regarding #IAmThoseGuys), but a fair response is “So how about some examples of values-based leaders!”

Well, I was fortunate to be exposed to four values-based leaders this week in four very different occupations: a successful CEO, a phenomenal president of a not-for-profit, an NBA basketball coach, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve! Here’s a brief summary:

Scott Brown

1) Scott Brown is the President and CEO Emeritus of Sage Products, a leading healthcare company that is now part of Stryker. Scott was a guest speaker for my values-based leadership class last week and did a great job sharing his perspectives on leadership. I loved his comments regarding a story where he had to make a tough decision and someone said: “Well, it’s not personal”, to which he responded, “YES, it is always personal!!!” He summarized his commitment to “keeping it personal” as follows:

  • Keep it personal with our people (provide support for personal growth and professional development)
  • Keep it personal with our customer (develop, produce, and maintain the highest quality products)
  • Keep it personal with our leadership (demonstrate high visibility and accessibility)
  • Keep it personal with our community (remain visible and active leaders within our community)

A few more “Scott Brown highlights”:

  • First, make it all about the customer
  • Second, realize how many customers you really have
  • Third, never forget everyone is smarter than you about something

Art Mollenhauer

2) Art Mollenhauer is the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago (BBBS). I was fortunate to have Art as a colleague at Baxter International for more than 20 years. When he stepped down from his role as one of Baxter’s senior executives ten years ago, he said he wanted to work with a dedicated team to make a real difference in the world.  And that is exactly what he is doing at BBBS. He leads BBBS and has a board that is as professional as any for-profit company I have come across. He is a fantastic example of someone who loves each of the four principles of values-based leadership!!!

3) At Art’s BBBS conference this week, his guest speaker was Steve Kerr, the former Chicago Bulls player and now coach of the Golden State Warriors. I was extremely impressed both by his comments, and in the Q&A discussion, the number of times he referenced concepts right in line with values-based leadership. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • When you take over a new leadership position, don’t tear

    Steve Kerr and the gang

    down your predecessor; build off where they are and take it to the next level

  • Great teams form an “unbreakable bond”…the key is the ability to relate to every person on the team
  • Key to leadership is a combination of BOTH self confidence and humility (YES!!!….that really made me smile) 😉
  • I know what I am doing. but I am not afraid to ask others, ‘What do you think?’
  • Steve’s four key areas of focus for his team: joyful, compassionate, competitive, mindfulness

Janet Yellin

4) If that wasn’t enough, I had the opportunity to end the week attending an Executive Club of Chicago event featuring Fed chairman Janet Yellin. Her ability to explain the mission of the Federal Reserve, and what the Fed’s role has been year by year since the 2008 financial crisis, was extremely well done. It was clear that her key focus is BALANCE; scaling back the “financial accommodation” that has been key to the recovery without igniting inflation and gradually increasing interest rates. Her ability to take complicated topics and simplify them into their core components was fantastic, a true sign of a values-based leader. It is clear she is a very reflective person, especially when you realize that every single word she says is under the microscope!!

I hope I have the opportunity to spend time with more VBLs this coming week!

Have a great week!!

Two Fun Days in Bali!

I must admit, Bali was not a place I thought I would have the opportunity to visit this year. I knew it was in Indonesia, and I remember seeing the Broadway musical “South Pacific,” but that was about the extent of my familiarity with the island.

Last year I gave a lecture at a MarkPlus event in Jakarta, and Mr. Kartajaya Hermawan, the Chairman, invited me to visit Bali on my next trip to Asia. He is one of the co-authors with Professor Philip Kotler of “Marketing 3.0“, and the Museum of Marketing 3.0 is located at the Museum Puri Lukisan in Bali.

So, on my way from giving talks in Jakarta (see my prior post) to teaching this weekend in the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA program, I spent two “fun days” in Bali with my eldest daughter, Suzie, who was on her way to visit friends in Shanghai…..boy, the world is sure getting smaller!!


With my daughter, Suzie


With Fancy Brown (middle)

Fancy Brown, the head of the Marketing Museum took us to visit the Pita Maha Resort in Ubud and also to the museum. The museum has wonderful exhibits of the history of marketing and active learning stations for students and adult visitors.

In addition, we had the opportunity to visit the King of Ubud-Bali, Dr. Tjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati. We had a great discussion on the leadership challenges of working to improve the Bali economy and at the same time, maintaining the culture and history of this remarkable island.


Some “monkeying around”

If that wasn’t enough, Fancy and her colleague took us to visit the rice fields, a coffee plantation, AND the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. A truly memorable trip!!

Okay, now I’m in Hong Kong to teach my “Leading a Global Company” class at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology for the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA program. This is my third year teaching in this amazing program, which is ranked by the Financial Times as the #1 EMBA program in the world!!

With the King of Ubud-Bali, Dr. Tjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati

Two Interesting Days in Jakarta

Greetings from Jakarta! I am spending two days here before teaching in the Kellogg-HKUST executive MBA program this coming weekend in Hong Kong.

image4I had the opportunity to spend time on Sunday with Kellogg and K-HKUST alums at the Jakarta offices of Catalyst Strategy, a very innovative marketing firm founded by Farina Situmorang, a Kellogg alum. We spent several hours discussing values-based leadership and the management challenges in Asia. I must add that I received MANY questions regarding “What’s going on with your U.S. political system?” (Not an easy one to explain 😉 )

As you can see from the following pictures, the atmosphere at Catalyst Strategy is very inviting with toys, soft cushions, and a “playground” where the team members can interact. The focus on self reflection and becoming more self aware is highlighted by the drawings on the walls, including responses to the question “Why am I here?”. Since it is Chinese New Year, note the drawing of the “Year of the Rooster”. You can find additional info on Catalyst Strategy at


Wilson Pranoto, a KH alum and good friend, is a member of the Indonesian YPO (Young President’s Organization). On Monday I had the opportunity to give a four-hour seminar on values-based leadership to their leadership group and spouses. The group was highly interactive (with a lot of Q&O…questions and opinions). It was very interesting to see the similarity in issues and challenges to those in the U.S., Europe and Latin America; the need for leaders to clearly define their values, set clear direction, set clear expectations with accountability, the critical need for feedback, and being able to “lead up” when dealing with ineffective bosses.img-20170206-wa0031

I am now on my way to Bali and Hong Kong….stay tuned!

Looking for some BALANCE…from ALL of Us!!!

Okay, I will start this post with a disclaimer: This post is not meant to be an attack on President Trump — he won the election and is now the U.S. President and Commander in Chief. No matter what our political leanings, we must accept that fact. However, I do believe it is important for each of us to challenge specific actions. This blog post is really a “call” for all of us to address the myriad issues we are dealing with as a country in a much more BALANCED way…and realize that WE ARE THOSE GUYS.

In my Kellogg leadership classes and executive presentations, I advise everyone to “take the time to understand ALL sides of the issues,” and to “seek to understand before being understood.”  As my grandfather, Farrell Grehan, used to explain to me when I was in high school and complained that I didn’t understand why someone was doing something: “Harry, life is much simpler when you only understand your side of the story.”

It seems that almost every issue in the news today is addressed with extremes rather than thoughtfully trying to find a balance. Here are just a few examples (note that the answer in my opinion is usually YES!!):

Should the U.S. be focused on “America First” and making sure American citizens have the opportunities to improve their standard of living, OR
Should the U.S. play a role as a responsible global citizen in the manner we have since the end of WW2?
I think the answer is YES!!

Should the U.S. focus on expanding the free-market capitalistic system and eliminate regulation, OR
Should we realize that a free-market capitalistic system has many advantages, but that it is not perfect and a certain level of regulation is necessary?
Yes! How about a little BALANCE?!

Regarding immigration policy, should we be “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the U.S.”, OR
Should we realize that we all have family histories of immigration and immigration is one of the key reasons America became a great country?
Preventing students and even individuals with green cards from suddenly not being able to enter the country strikes me as extreme…..where is the balance?

Should we be exiting global trade agreements, OR
Realize that we live in a global world in which there are tremendous benefits to American citizens from having products produced in the lowest cost regions of the world?
Yes, there is no question that globalization can adversely impact some individuals, but is the answer to reduce trade? Or find ways to retrain these individuals in other areas of the economy?
I thought this was something we all learned in our first class in Economics in high school?!

Speaking of economics, I think it would be great if we could all make sure we took the time to understand some simple economics.  Here’s an example which I find amazing.  We have been told that we are going to build a wall on the Mexican border and Mexico is going to pay for it. While I am very tempted to address the logic (or lack thereof) of building a wall, I do have an “opinion” on the announcement that Mexico pay for the wall via a 20% tariff imposed by the U.S. on goods coming in from Mexico. Think about this for a moment.  Let’s assume that a product from Mexico is currently coming into the U.S. at a price of $10. If the U.S. puts a 20% tariff on the product to pay for the wall, what do you think the Mexican manufacturer is going to do?  My guess is that he will raise the price to $12 to cover the cost of the tariff. So, who is paying for the wall? The Mexicans? Or the Americans who are now paying $12 for a product that used to cost $10?

Okay, so what should WE be doing about all of these issues and the apparent lack of balance (and maybe lack of common sense)? In an earlier blog post I stated that rather than expecting that magical group of people called “those guys” to deal with these issues, each of us needs to realize that #IAmThoseGuys!!!!

Realizing #IAmThoseGuys means that you are not watching the movie, you are in the movie. This requires each of us to actually DO something proactive. Here’s a partial list of options:

  • Calling or writing your congressmen and representatives at the state and national level
  • Educating and teaching others of the need for “BALANCE”
  • Participating in marches and rallies
  • Running for office yourself

I remain ever an optimist.  And I believe that if each of us realizes #IAmThoseGuys, our representative democracy can continue to thrive the next 240 years and more!!!  The key is to get started and get involved!!!

I always appreciate hearing from you.

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