Editor’s Note: How to Copy Leaders

March, 2005

All the elements of a great story were there: provocative characters; a “secret” windowless training facility near Washington D.C. and, something everyone loves, winners. You know I’m talking about Xerox Corp. in Hawaii, right?

As David K. Choo notes in our cover story, “X Forever,” the Xerox office in Hawaii has become a fertile ground for growing top executives, who are making contributions in many different industry sectors. For the story, he spoke with more than half-a dozen former “X-roids” (pronounced ZEE-roids, like Xerox), as they like to refer to themselves.

Yes, Xerox Hawaii was the site of the worst mass murder Hawaii has experienced to date. However, the fact that the company has managed to weather such a blow and still maintain the goodwill of so many former employees and current customers is a testament to its ability to pick and train leaders. That is no small thing.

Recently, I was privileged to hear from two outstanding leaders, Ret. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki and Frances Hesselbein, chairman of the board of governors of the Leader to Leader Institute. Shinseki describes the atrocities at Abu Ghraib as a failure in leadership, saying that Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba very clearly put in front of the congress that the army had a problem. He added that the army is a competent organization, which will weather these moments. Shinseki says you can teach leadership principles, but he’s never been able to teach judgment, which he defines as “doing what’s right when the time comes.”

Hesselbein, whose organization recently published Shinseki’s book Be * Know * Do, Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual: Leadership the Army Way, concurred, saying “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” She closed with a favorite quote from George Bernard Shaw, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for a short moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Shinseki finished his remarks with a recitation of the Cadet’s Prayer, which says, in part, “Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with half a truth when a whole can be won. …Help us, in our work and in our play, to keep ourselves physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight, that we may realize our ideals and our duty.” Amen.

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Kelli Abe-Trifonovich