Three world-class bosses show how it's done

In this blog, business success coach John M McKee provides some insight into why some companies succeed and other fail by sharing tips used by three great organizations' leaders.


Polls like this can be very enlightening. They can help you understand certain automatic underlying commitments that define your leadership approach and style. They remind you to reflect on your own effectiveness.

Case studies

1. Years ago, I was invited by the CEO of Nordstroms, Bruce Nordstom, to come and spend two days with him at that company's head office. Earlier, I'd asked how he could explain why his company was growing and taking market share.  Similar department stores seemed to spend at least as much as he did on advertising and merchandise.

2. HTC is a not-broadly-known electronics company based in Taiwan. It will be a household name soon. Guided by Chair Cher Wang since it was founded in 1997, HTC has become one of the most closely watched mobile phone makers in the world, while Palm, one of the best-known brands and early leader in this sector, looks like bankruptcy is in the near future.

3.  Until recently Ford Motor was famous mostly for making huge profits from trucks while frittering away quality. Lately it has become the darling of the auto industry while other manufacturers scramble to catch up. Under the guidance of the company's first non-auto boss, he's showing the "experts" at Toyota and Mercedes how to get it right.

The above companies show us how one great leader can cause great success, despite factors that others would point to as reasons for their company's failure.

Act decisively

In today's environment, it's time for more of our leaders -- perhaps you -- to act more decisively. When I went to Nordstrom's headquarters, I was amazed at how the company was led. Far differently from other big retailers I'd seen (many who didn't survive like The Emporium, Eatons, Bullocks, Marshall Fields and who had detailed organization charts and used many committees), this was a company that was still led by an individual. He walked me around and introduced me to regular people who knew him well. He talked in great detail about performance. But mostly, he showed me a commonsense style. He firmly believed, and the company reflected his belief, that if you treat your customers exceptionally well, they will stay with you and your organization will succeed. Customers, in his opinion, are both external and internal. Nordstroms is still standing. Recently they announced new store additions while others continue to cut back to "survive."

Can one's faith drive a global organization? Could yours? Apparently so. Just ask the Chairman of HTC. And if faith can motivate a business of $3.7B, with offices worldwide, it can just as surely drive a small operation. Cher Wang makes no secret of the importance of faith in her decisions and management. She believes that two critical values are greatly responsible for HTC's success: integrity (to customers, of products, with employees) and humility (admitting faults and changing). With clients around the world, I am convinced that each of these are universal in their power and acceptable to any person's beliefs. While competitors fumble and flail, the HTC group is clear in their direction.

Perspective is hugely important. It can turn around a flailing company. It could work for you. Ford Motors is an old company famous for short-term decisions and bureaucracy. It was also famous for promoting "car guys" (women? unlikely) into key roles. Invariably, these leaders were auto guys as well. Until joining Ford in late '06, Allan Mulally was an aerospace exec. He'd done well at Boeing and brought many of his tactics and strategies to the auto business. In the years since, he has showed that former boss William Ford, Jr. was prescient when he chose an outsider. The company is succeeding. It has grown in the critical and key indicators of sales, quality, customer satisfaction -- all and each of which anyone with  "common sense" would agree make for a successful organization. His success provides guidance for all leaders in any industry: strive to keep an outsider perspective.

Here's to your future!


By John McKee

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...