The session was innocuously labeled “guest speaker – Harry Kraemer Jr”. And we knew that he was the ex-CEO and Chairman of Baxter. Little did we know that we would get to see someone who truly walks the talk.
Harry spoke of three traits regarding leadership – Keep things Simple, Use Common sense and Start ASAP. Quite simple and easy to do and things that resonate deeply with me. I like to simplify complex things and I have always thought that life is simple, WE complicate it. Watch your thoughts – very often they are about what others will think of you if you say or do something. We live somebody’s else’s idea of our life and in the process complicate it. At work we worry about the next promotion, about someone getting ahead before us, or what our boss thinks of us … Complications! We worry about the unseen future and imagine things to be worse than what they are – complications. We dream of many things but don’t take concrete steps to make those dreams come true – complications.
Life is simple – what you sow you reap, if you spend more than you earn, you will be in debt, if you eat more than you spend, you will become fat, if you don’t live according to your values, you can’t sleep peacefully at night, if another day goes by, you are older, if you take the next breath, you are alive – all simple… Find what is making life complicated and simplify it.
Common sense is a good one.. It should be renamed rare sense, because it is rare and soon will be endangered. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that you can’t cook the books forever, just like food that is left on the stove top, burns and chars. You were told not to make a mountain out of a mole hill and that is what you forget – solve problems when they are small, common sense! If you are in trouble ask for help, common sense. If you don’t know the way, ask for directions 🙂
I especially liked Harry’s third point – start ASAP. Leadership traits are often seen at a very young age and nurture that when you spot it in your team members. I also would like to interpret it another way – start the work ASAP. The corporate world many times has action inertia… We discuss a report format in several meetings, find new columns to add, debate on columns to remove, worry about where to find the data – but start ASAP, refine as you go along, ask for forgiveness rather than wait for sanction. As long as intentions are good and values are in alignment to the organization, just go do it, if you fail, great, dust yourself and restart ASAP. If you succeed, even better, start the next thing ASAP.
Harry also spoke of his book “From Values to Action” and the four principles of values-based leadership – Self reflection, Balance and perspective, true self-confidence and genuine humility. Simple and straightforward, no management jargon and so easy to understand.
I found two newspaper clippings about Harry Kraemer after the session and that’s when I realised that this man truly walks the talk and has been doing that at all times. Here are the links to the two stories –
It has been the one of the best sessions I have attended, because the man was authentic, lived the way one should and most of all for being an example of how corporate success is possible with values-based leading – simple, it’s not a myth, it does happen. Thanks for that lesson Harry. It helps many of us stay the course as we see the values and ethics pillars crumbling around us.