Besides being asked by all the groups I meet with whether I'm running for office again, the one question I get asked quite often, in almost every Q&A, is: "When did you know you were going to be a CEO?"
My answer is always the same: "The day I accepted the job at HP."
I started my career as a secretary in a small, nine-person real estate firm and I honestly didn't aspire to lead a large corporation or even our small firm. At the time, I didn't know I had it in me because like many of you I only understood leadership as the titles of my bosses with the big offices.
The two men who ran that real estate firm came up to me and said: "We think you can do more than type and file. Do you want to learn what we do?" I knew I liked solving problems and collaborating with the people around me. But it wasn&'t clear at the time that solving problems was leadership. They saw something in me that I didn&'t see in myself. They unlocked my potential to continue to solve whatever problems I found in front of me.
REALITY OF LEADERSHIP
Our culture today continues to celebrate big companies with big profits, just like we celebrate people with fancy titles or big offices. We call those companies and those people leaders. This is providing us with a false sense of what leadership is and should be.
Too many of the companies with the most recognizable names are not leading. They have become too big, too complex, and they turn in on themselves--eventually focusing on profit over problem-solving.
The reality is that leadership is not about title, position, or power. It&'s not about the size of the assets on your balance sheet or how many corporate jets you can afford.
It is about solving problems and unlocking the potential of those around you--something that any company of any size can do. And, I would argue, it is something that small businesses and franchises do exceptionally well.
INVEST IN FRANCHISEES
I was fortunate during my time at the IFA Annual Convention to have an opportunity to meet with and speak to a wide variety of franchisors and franchisees--and all my conversations bore out this theme of leadership. They have recognized and embraced this fundamental promise that anyone--with the right set of tools, resources, disciplines, and behaviors--can lead.
That doesn&'t mean that everyone is leading. It&'s clear that franchisors who recognize the potential in their franchisees and invest in them--giving them access to those resources, tools, and examples of...