“If people don’t like you or trust you, then you are not going to get very far.  And you will never quite know why because they may never tell you.”  

- Lee Cockerell, former EVP of Operations at Walt Disney

Lee had a wildly successful career.  First, for a couple of decades with the Marriott corporation and then for a couple more with Disney.  While he was already successful by many measures, he didn’t became a world class leader until a wake up call in El Paso.  He was there to meet with one of the mangers who ran a hotel that Lee had supervisory responsibilities over.

The man, who had never met Lee, said that his reputation preceded him.  He had been told that no matter how well he did his job or prepared he was for the visit, that Lee would find a bunch of stuff wrong.  That man had so much anxiety over the visit that he ended up in the hospital.  Despite all the accolades that Lee had been given up to that point, he decided that day to change his life and his leadership forever.  

He not only had a far more successful career after that, he ended up creating crazy loyalty and changed many lives.  He is now a celebrated author and public speaker in his retirement from Disney.  Turns out he came from a dysfunctional environment and actually lacked confidence and a strong sense of identity.  He was far more formidable in his leadership role than his confidence led him to believe and he was crushing everybody around him.

At the heart of all his issues was trust. 

When you don’t trust others (or ultimately trust God), you try to micromanage everybody and everything. 

You misbehave.  

You crush others.

Starting to feel familiar?  It does to me.

Lee realized that the things he needed to do to become a great parent were very similar to the things he needed to do to become a great leader.

“A leader’s job is to produce more leaders.”

“A parent’s job is to raise children who can become great parents, citizens and leaders.”

It wasn't actually being a dad, but it was acting as a father to those under his leadership that became the key to his success.  He woke up to the reality one day that his leadership had a tremendous impact on those he was leading.  It could be an incredible impact for good or for evil.  And because he had made the aesthetic conversion from destructive to supportive; he had the mercy, patience and care to know that many of them were wrestling with the same things he had in the past.

I told the president of a very large company recently, “When you write a simple note to an employee as the President, they often frame it and hang it on the wall.”  Think about that for a moment.  As a senior leader in your family or business, your words weigh thousands of pounds.  

A good father, mother or leader understands that the weight of their leadership is profound.  Profound for good or profound for bad.  And guess what? As leaders, we largely get to decide which it is going to be.

  • Are you aware of the effect you have on others?
  • What deeper issues are affecting the way you behave?
  • Have you ever thought of the skills required for great leadership being the same as those needed to be a great parent?
  • Are you using the weight of your leadership for profoundly good or bad things?