I had the good fortune to watch a presentation last week by Tommy Spaulding, author of two books on the New York Times Best Seller list. He was the opening keynote speaker at the CPA The One conference in Vancouver. VersaPay was a sponsor and exhibitor at the conference. Tommy is the former CEO of the renowned global leadership organization Up With People and believes “heart-led” leadership can change the lives of everyone you lead and serve. Today Tommy has a for-profit consulting company and also a non-profit leadership institute. The consulting side of the business, whose guiding principle is “put people first and business will follow,” works with organizations to develop “a leadership and service vision.” Tommy described how Up With People exists to inspire young people to make a difference in their world. It aims to bring the world together through service, music and travel. This gives students an unparalleled experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world. Since 1965, more than 22,000 young leaders from 131 countries have become part of its global alumni network. Tommy’s presentation focused on Company Culture, Love and Results, and how great leaders rely on these as a foundation to motivate and inspire. It’s about actions, not words. He shared some amazing success stories to illustrate the point. Tommy spoke about Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. Popeyes was failing when she took over six years ago. Today it is the second largest fast food chicken company in the US. Cheryl achieved this success by focusing on the company’s culture. She committed 33 per cent of her time mentoring her direct reports, and in turn asked them to do the same for their staff. Popeyes is now doing well, and its stock has increased 450 per cent in six years. We heard about Frank DeAngelis, the now retired principal of Columbine High School, the scene of a horrific mass shooting by two of its students. Following the tragedy Frank brought teachers and students together to establish a plan for change and to create a culture where every single student felt loved and part of a greater community. Walt Rakowich is the former CEO at ProLogis. He led one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Wall Street history. When he was reappointed CEO of Prologis, an S&P global real estate company with operations in 22 countries, bankruptcy loomed and the global financial crisis was in full swing. Prologis’ market cap had fallen from $20 billion to less than a billion, a 97 per cent drop that made Prologis the third worst performing stock in the S&P. With Walt’s leadership, the company increased cash flow, raised new equity, paid off $10 billion of debt and completed the largest real estate merger ever. He won the support of investors and employees with his genuine honesty, transparency, and heart led leadership. Burl Cain was the warden of the Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. It was the most dangerous prison in North America, with frequent murders and rapes and 6,800 inmates. When Cain was hired to be the new warden, he said he would change the environment. He believed the only way to give his inmates hope was is in the form of eternal life, so he encouraged a spiritual atmosphere in the prison. Through his leadership and by providing meaningful work and purpose for the inmates, the result was a major decrease in violent incidents. Tommy had more stories, however he closed with one that was particularly inspiring, where his high school football coach placed a great deal of confidence in him as an unlikely field goal kicker for the team’s championship game. Tommy came through for the team in the final minutes of the game. But as Tommy suggests, much of that credit goes to the coach for his leadership and the confidence he placed in Tommy to be a success, not only in that moment but throughout his career. Leadership is foundational to the success of any organization, and learning about these transformational stories was an inspiring way to kick off the conference.
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