INTERVIEW with Ken Pasch, Author of ‘On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar’
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with leadership authority Ken Pasch, author of On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar (2017). We spoke at length about Pasch’s unique leadership model (hint: it involves airplanes), a surprising staff role organizations can’t do without, and why leadership is an essential part of our everyday lives.
What inspired you to write On Course?
Tongue-in-cheek, I would say, “Because there are no leadership books out there!” Obviously, that’s not true. But I believe I share a different perspective that will truly help people become great leaders. I love people, and I hate to see wasted potential. So I’m on a quest to change that. I believe sharing my story, and the tools I’ve developed, will help.
Here’s a quick version of my story: I was a flyer in the U.S. Air Force. Because my flying commitments were so hard on my family, I traded my flight suit for a business suit and used my health administration education to lead medical centers. In my first position, I was expected to lead others, and, well, there’s no getting around it: I was terrible at it. My employees were miserable. But I made a commitment to change. I tried books, courses, and workshops. I learned a lot about what a good leader is, but now how to become one. It was incredibly frustrating.
During one of many sleepless nights, I thought back to my flying days and wondered, “Could there be something similar about getting an aircraft and an organization off the ground?” It turns out, there is! This epiphany resulted in the leadership model I introduce in On Course, which connects the dynamics of flight to leading. This model turns the frustration you may be experiencing into a positive shockwave that will unlock, engage, and optimize potential within your organization.
In the book, you mention one staff role every organization can’t do without. What is it?
One of the coefficients of flight I’ve included in my leadership model is drag. Drag is a problem; it’s what holds you back. When a leader thinks about drag, he or she probably visualizes troublesome employees or operational challenges. But leaders are human, too. And they’re prone to the same mistakes any of us may make, if not more. By definition, those in leadership positions may find themselves guilty of a sin that could cause your organization to crash and burn: hubris.
To help keep this from happening, I recommend every leader ask one or more people to serve as the proverbial “Devil’s Advocate.” A leader must be open to the inputs of others, especially inputs contrary to the direction the leader intends to take. If you’re a leader, please, openly and willingly accept these inputs. You’ll be more likely to stay on course, and you just might find a renewed sense of vigor and vitality in your organization because of it.
How should we measure success within a workforce?
I am a proponent of data-driven managerial tools such as KPIs, the PDCA Cycle (sometimes referred to as the Deming or Shewhart Cycle), Lean Six Sigma, and the Balanced ScoreCard. These are great, mostly objective measurements.
However, there are powerful subjective measurements leaders should also consider when monitoring success. To stay on course, leaders must carefully consider the impact their decisions, actions, and inactions have on others. Periodically, ask yourself these two questions:
1. If you, as the leader, were asked to resign, how would your staff respond?
If you think they would throw a party after you are gone, there just might be something wrong with your leadership style.
2. Do you believe that to get anything done in your organization, you must do it?
If you do, you might as well replace your entire staff with robots. And we should probably talk about your approach to leadership.
Why is leadership an essential part of our everyday lives?
One of the myths of leading is that you must be in a position of authority to be a leader. This is not true! If you’re a parent, a teacher, or you take ownership of a position you hold at work — even if no one works for you — you are a leader.
We can trace the vast majority of failures back to poor decisions made by those who should be leading, but aren’t. The solution is simple: Beresponsible for your decisions. Be willing to be held accountable for the outcomes of those decisions. Value all humans with whom you interact, directly or indirectly. Take ownership of those things for which you are expected to be responsible. Work to establish a unifying vision to help your entire crew get and stay on course toward the best outcomes possible. Yes, I do believe the solution is this simple; implementing these actions within the current state of the human condition is what’s difficult. Become a great leader and each of these will become natural to you over time. I wish you luck! Let me know if you need help.
Ken Pasch brings over 30 years’ experience in revolutionizing leader development within a broad range of organizations, including the U.S. Military, Johnson & Johnson, the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. He is the founder of KiVisions, Inc., which advises good people on how to become great leaders, and serves as faculty in executive education at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. Pasch is a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, where he served proudly and with distinction.
His new book is On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar (2017).
Learn more: www.KiVisions.com