I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Dan Forbes for his blog, Lead With Giants. I’d like to share this interview with you, as it really bore down to the fundamentals of leading in today’s volatile world. I’d also encourage a visit to Dan’s site. I know you’ll enjoy it! As this was an in depth interview, I’ll post it in installments over the coming days. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!
1. What was your first recollection of experiencing great leadership?
Without a doubt it has to be Bill Sanford, the founder and former CEO of STERIS Corporation. His vision and execution took a concept (that didn’t quite work at the time) and a $1 million private equity investment and created a billion dollar company in twelve years. While he was at it, the STERIS System 1® (the working device based on the original concept for sterilizing very expensive, sensitive surgical endoscopes, using cold-liquid, in the O.R., in less than 30 minutes) revolutionized, actually enabled, the explosion in minimally invasive surgical procedures that are so common today. His entrepreneurial leadership changed the world, relieved a myriad of human suffering, and introduced remarkable efficiencies in health care. As an executive at STERIS during those high-growth and maturing-growth years, I had the wonderful opportunity to work closely with Mr. Sanford. He was the dean of my experiential education!
2. Who had the most significant influence on shaping you as a leader?
My father. He was on his own since he was 13 years old. He took responsibility for his own life at a very young age. He had to find the leadership within to guide him and he created a successful, meaningful life. His consistency of values and congruency of action left a lasting impression on me.
3. What do you believe are the qualities of leadership?
Transformational leadership is what our businesses and civilization are calling out for in the 21st century. Leadership is a sacred trust; one of mindful stewardship and service to those we lead. For me, this begins with one’s ability to feel and express authentic empathy. Being visionary, tempered with experiential wisdom, and extensive dialoging with associates is also key. Notice I didn’t say communicating…I want dialogue…meaning open discourse and passionate engagement throughout the organization. This requires inclusiveness and parking the ego at the door. Unwavering congruency would be next; being impeccable with my word and ensuring my behaviors resonate and amplify the intention of our shared vision.
4. What were the turning points in your life?
It’s been a circuitous journey, so most of the tacks were more along the lines of sweeping arcs rather than individual flash points. Enlisting in Naval Intelligence at 17 years old was the launch point. Serving my country at such a young age really set my perspective towards team cohesion, unity, mission, purpose. We were accountable for each others’ lives out there; we were literally in the same boat. That obligation to others never leaves you.
More than turning points I look back at the resonant moments I’ve had the privilege to be a part of throughout my career. Being in the labs at M.I.T. at the outset of the Human Genome Project. Leading the strategic market launch of the first human, umbilical cord blood-derived stem cell. Seeing these cells differentiated into single heart cells, inborn with the wisdom to beat, even by themselves. Peering through the microscope at these same stem cells as they differentiated into oligodendrocytes and begin seeking inter-connection, creating new neural pathways in real time. Wandering up a hill in New Jersey, between meetings with researchers at the old Bell Labs, to see the Horn Telescope, the device that discovered the background radiation that proved the Big Bang Theory as correct. Meeting and speaking with James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, at a scientific symposium. When I look back upon my journey, I sometimes feel like the Forrest Gump of the sciences!
The most significant epiphany I’ve experienced is discovering the transformational power working with horses can have on human beings. This occurred four years ago and it has shifted the entire trajectory of my work and life.
to be continued…
© 2012, Terry Murray.
© 2012, Dan Forbes.