Amir Ghannad is a leadership coach with 30 years of experience in leadership and organizational development. Amir’s corporate career began at Procter and Gamble, where he held a variety of positions in the US, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Amir also served as Plant Director at Sunny Delight Beverages Company before taking on leading the Global High Performance Organization initiative at Campbell Soup Company.
A registered corporate coach and an accomplished trainer of courses such as Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Speed of Trust, The Mind Gym, and many others, Amir has designed and delivered numerous customized sessions that have helped organizations successfully achieve results in a variety of business situations.
What compelled you to write this book?
I’ve been writing about leadership for many years, and as I’ve spoken at various events people have often asked me if I’ve written a book and many have urged me to do that.
I have a ton of post-it notes on the walls of my office, and my daughter finally broke that cycle of procrastination and took over as the project manager. She said, “Look you have a message to get out to the world, so why don’t we go ahead and make this happen?”
I took a cross-section of my writing and boiled it down into what is now known as The Transformative Leader.
Your approach to leadership is very much in alignment with servant leadership, can you talk a little more about that? Why is that so important in the workplace today?
I really believe the role of leaders is a sacred one because leaders have a profound impact not only on the success of the business, but the well-being and attitude of their employees, which in turn impacts their families and the communities and ultimately the world.
Leaders must understand and recognize that first and foremost they are a servant in the context of the results they expect to deliver. They own the responsibility of making sure the direction is clear, but the rest of the work, most of the work, has to do with making sure they serve the organization in accomplishing their goals and continuing to get better.
I believe there are a lot of hard-charging bosses who could potentially coerce their employees into compliance, but I believe that extraordinary results come from people being committed, and you cannot force people to be committed. You have to earn their commitment, and the best way for us to really earn their trust is that we are there; we care about the organization and the mission, and we are there to serve.
I consider everyone to be a leader in one way or another, because leadership starts with leading your own personal journey through life.
Did you have any “Aha!” moments while writing the book?
I’ve done a lot of coaching and speaking, and in most circumstances I customize my conversations or my talks to the audience. The challenge I faced in writing a book is that you don’t know who is going to read it, so you have to develop a set of cookie cutter instructions. I did not like that approach. What really struck me as I struggled with how to do that is that I wanted to write the book as if I am sitting there coaching the person. I wanted to offer a variety of different things to think about. That’s how a book like this could be really effective, rather than as an instructional type of book. It should be about inspiration and encouragement.
What if I am not a leader in the traditional sense? Are the ideas in this book still going to be relevant to me?
I consider everyone to be a leader in one way or another, because leadership starts with leading your own personal journey through life. Although I do refer to organizational dynamics and culture in the book, most of the lessons have to do with principles and concepts that are useful in everyday life. No matter what your situation is, you can use those principles to lead yourself to a better place.
In your speeches and in your book, you’re known for your phrase, “I am the one, and it’s not about me.” What do you mean by that?
This is one phrase that I believe sums up the whole concept of servant leadership, or Level 5 Leadership as Jim Collins calls it. It speaks to the tenacity of leadership but also the humility of the person as the leader. “I am the one” speaks to the person’s unconditional commitment to be and do what it takes to bring about a certain outcome no matter what. So no matter what obstacles show up, no matter what’s working for me or not working for me or working against me, I declare myself the one. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
However that has to be combined with the second part of this phrase, which says, “It’s not about me” because that part speaks to the fact that the leader’s commitment to the cause is not about him or her. As obstacles are encountered, rather than giving into an internal dialogue about, “Why did this happen to me?” you get right back to, “I am the one.”
I believe this phrase works really well when you embrace both sides of it. Lots of coaching sessions that I’ve had on this one phrase focus on the point that you can’t have one part without the other. It doesn’t work. You will fail to lead. In concert those two things together really ensure the servant leadership mentality.
How can leaders leverage culture change when they are looking to make an impact?
Culture is the collective set of behaviors that we exhibit every day. We create the culture over time, and that culture eventually influences us. This cycle can either be a vicious cycle or a virtuous one. Leaders, in my mind, have mastered the art and science of transforming cultures, and they have the ability to shift the behavior of people in their organizations from ones that deliver mediocre results to ones that deliver extraordinary results.
I personally have experienced this many times in my career as I have been summoned to different organizations that were not doing so well. The one that stands out in my mind was about ten years ago when we turned the worst plant in the company into the best in the company, and we did that strictly by focusing on culture. That said, many companies take on culture change as some kind of project or standalone initiative, and I have to emphasize that culture change only works if it is integrated into everything within an organization so that it permeates everything in work processes, policies, rewards, and many other aspects that influence people to behave the way they do.
What ideas, insights, and inspirations are you hoping other manufacturing executives will take away from reading your book?
My book is intended to cause people to see their greatness and the transformative leader that already resides inside of them. It is intended to allow them to see what is in the way, and how the ability to get that out of the way so they show up on a day-to-day basis empowered, energized, and creating an extraordinary life for themselves and the people around them.
I have witnessed countless people’s transformations as they were able get beyond their internal dialogue and see themselves for the magnificent creation that they are, and that feeling is addictive. I wrote this book to make that available to everyone. The one-point lessons I have in the back of the book –I have twenty of them—each of them is a story that conveys a lesson. I ask a few questions that will cause the reader to bring that point to life wherever they are in their journey, and then I offer some suggestions for possible actions. I am guiding the reader to make that happen in their life, but I am not giving them specific cookie cutter set of instructions.
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Summary of The Transformative Leader:
Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary
We have all been created with specific gifts and talents to serve a unique purpose in this world. Yet, despite this, so many of us go through life tolerating mediocrity and lack, simply because we don’t see ourselves as the extraordinary beings that we truly are. Even when we set out to break through to the next level of performance or prosperity, we are hindered by the limiting beliefs that we have accumulated over the years, and we end up settling for something that falls far short of fulfilling our purpose.
The Transformative Leader takes you on a personal journey of self-discovery and provides an abundance of insight into the beliefs, skills, actions, and habits of Transformative Leaders, empowering you to make a difference in your lives and workplaces, no matter where you are in your journey.
Whether there is a small team or a multinational company that is counting on you for leadership, or even if you are just interested in applying tried-and-true leadership principles to your everyday life in your family and community, you will find the stories, techniques, and lessons in this book to be inspirational, thought provoking, practical, and actionable.