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10 Takeaways from the Shelton Leadership Forum

Culture Leadership Tips from an NC State Conference

One of the benefits of relocating the LexisNexis software division on NC State’s Centennial Campus is the access the university provides to a wealth of resources.   One of those resources is the Shelton Leadership Center which advocates the importance of “values-based leadership development for corporations, educational institutions, community agencies and public officials.”

The center, which bears the namesake of General (Ret.) Hugh Shelton, hosts a leadership forum every November, and features a day-long line up of speakers and panelists.  At the most recent forum, LexisNexis sent about a dozen employees to attend and the following is reflective of our collective notes from the Shelton Leadership Forum.

“You make your career by getting. You make your life by giving.”

1. Leadership is transferable. The best leaders take “a lot of input before putting themselves out there” said Donald Thompson of I-cubed. In this way leadership is transferable because leaders have made a decision that unifies the team.

2. Help your leader, help yourself.   Even leaders need a helping hand sometimes too.  Mr. Thompson suggests aspiring leaders focus 70% of their work time on their core job and then spend the other 30% tacking something that’s cluttering up the desk of a superior. (Submission by Carol Brani)

3. Prioritize:  Now, next and never. Everyone has finite time and resources and effective leaders know how to establish priorities.  Priorities should be determined by what has to be done now, next and never according to Mr. Thompson.  What leaders list as “never” should be eliminated from a to-do list. (Submission by Carol Brani)

4. Time as a limited asset. Leaders must identify “what’s important now, later, or never” said Mr. Thompson. Time is a limited asset and it’s critical to know what tasks you should do yourself, delegate, or drop. (Submission by Matt Thompson [of no relation])

5. Leaders focus on knowledge.  Mr. Thompson recommended that leaders should “surround themselves with smart people,” and write down what they say, and then do what they recommend. Further, he suggested that when evaluating job opportunities, “choose mentorship and knowledge” over money. (Submission by Matt Thompson [of no relation])

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6. Leaders for life.  “You make your career by getting. You make your life by giving,” according to Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research and Development Corp.  DEKA  perhaps famously invented the Segue, the insulin pump, portable dialysis, and an organization called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology) for encouraging future generations of students to innovate. (Submission by Sherry Kappel)

7.  Compelling leadership.  “Leadership is compelling others to change their path,” said Mr. Kamen.   Compelling is the key word here – not forcing or demanding.  Wisely convincing and moving people to new action is compelling leadership (Submission by David Overton).

8. Fostering a blame free culture.  Novo Nordisk created its “essentials” – a list of 10 cultural principles – which describes the “Novo Nordisk way” according to Jonathan Walker.  These principles are foundation for corporate leadership to foster a “blame free culture” and that “culture encourages conformity.” For example, according to Mr. Walker an “operator” owned up to a self-made error in the process of producing insulin.  The insulin did not ship – a sunk cost – but rather than firing the operator, the identification led to a project to improve processes.

9. Values drive behavior. When healthcare costs spiked 13% there was plenty of support to pass along the costs to employees according to Billie Redmond of TradeMark Properties. With four small businesses falling under a parent organization, gaining consensus wasn’t an easy feat, but ultimately the entire organization decided to cover the cost.  Why? Because it sends the message that “we value our employees” and value drives behavior.  Culture she said, can withstand the biggest challenges in business.

10. Surround yourself with good people. One theme all speakers shared was that to be a good leader you need to empower your people. Find what your people are good at and let them handle it.  All speakers stated there were areas where they had weaknesses – that they didn’t know everything – so they turned to their people to help them lead. (Submission by Megan Robeson).

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Gen. Shelton serves as executive director for the Center.  He is a 1963 alumnus of the University and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.