Dr. Ken Blanchard is the Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or co-author of 50 books that have sold 20 million copies. Dr. Blanchard was honored by Amazon as one of the world’s 25 bestselling authors. His blockbuster books include The One Minute Manager; Leadership and the One Minute Manager;Raving Fans; Gung Ho!; and, most recently, Leading at a Higher Level and Helping People Win at Work. His latest book, “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life,” talks about how successful leaders don’t rest on their laurels. Leadership has to be a living process, not a title, not a business card.

I had the pleasure to do a radio interview with Dr. Blanchard about his latest book, “Great Leaders Grow.”

“Continuing to grow has been the key to my success. It can be the key to yours, too, if you read this book.” —Anthony Robbins, Entrepreneur, Author and Peak Performance Strategist

Steve Kayser: Having written 50 books, what inspired you to write “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life?”

Ken Blanchard: Well, a couple of things.

First of all, a few years ago when I was turning 65, I was talking to Zig Ziglar on the phone, the old motivation guy, and he had invited my wife and I to the 59th anniversary of his 21st birthday. So Zig had turned 80-years-old. I said, “Zig, you are going to retire.” He said, “There is no mention of it in the Bible. Except for Jesus, Mary and David, nobody under 80 made an impact. I’m re-firing, not retiring.”

And I thought, what a great concept, re-firing. Imagine if you had re-firement homes rather than retirement homes. This got me thinking about growing for life.

The second reason is Mark Miller heads up training for Chick-fil-A, and this is one of the great companies in America. I mean, here is a company that’s not even open on Sunday. They are going into Malls, and the Mall management says, ‘That’s our busiest day’ and Chick-fil-A’s people say, ‘if we can’t outsell in six days, what people would do in seven, you can get rid of us.’ And they can’t get rid of them. They have 1,600 stores,  less than 2% turnover in their restaurant, managers, and 75 to 100% less at the hourly level. It’s a great company and they are always trying to get their people to grow. So I co-wrote a book with Mark, called “The Secret: What Great Leaders Think and Do.” That was the second reason.  To see if we can hit a home run again, move people into growing.

Steve Kayser: This book is not just for business leaders. It’s also for people that want to lead their lives in a positive way.  Especially in these times of turbulence and travail.  For example,  I know people that have worked at companies all their life, then all of a sudden, their company is gone. Their job is gone. They have to re-invent themselves. Re-learn and re-imagine what they want to do with their lives. It can be daunting. You can’t do it though, without a continual learning mindset. A determination to grow, personally, mentally and spiritually.

How do you counsel people to step-up and strive to gain knowledge on a continual basis?


 Ken Blanchard: Well, first of all, the acronym GROW is the strategy.

G” stands for “gaining knowledge.””

“R” for “reaching out to others.”

“O” for opening your world.”

“W” for “walk towards wisdom.

To start with we try to focus them on where they ought to be gaining knowledge.

The first place is gaining knowledge about yourself. We find that the best leaders are people who are comfortable in their own skin. They know who they are. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They are willing to gather people around them, who complete them, don’t compete with them.

And so the first thing is to continue to grow your own knowledge, be willing to take personality and disposition tests, go to workshops, be open to learning about yourself.

Second, you have to know about your people. I’m always amazed that people who just don’t know their people, don’t know what their concerns are, don’t even know anything about their families and all that. If you know who your people are and about, then you can help bring out the very best in them. We were, before we got on the air here (radio interview), talking about Coach Calipari and the Kentucky team. I mean, Cal just knows those kids so well. They are over at his house all the time and they are just such an important part of each other’s lives. You have to know who your people are. Because he will pull a kid out of the game and say, “You are not playing the way you can, now sit down. When you are ready to play as good as you can, then let me know.”

So, know yourself,  know your people.

Third, you ought to study your industry, at least where you are now, so you are up to speed of where things are going . My wife heads up the “Office of the Future” in our company because I think the present and the future are banging into each other and lot of companies make a mistake. They send people with present day responsibilities away to plan the future. They are going to kill your future because they are either overwhelmed with the present or have vested interests.

And so, my wife stepped down as president. She has three or four people with no operational responsibilities and all they do is study what’s happening in our industry, what’s happening in learning, happening in all kinds of areas. So, when bad economic times and companies run out of business in our field, we won’t, because she and her group found out about teleconferencing, webinars, social media and all different kinds of ways to get to people when they are not traveling. So that’s the third thing, is your industry.

Finally, you ought to be constantly studying about leadership, read the leadership books, read Patrick Lencioni, read what Jim Collins is saying, read the best on leadership. So, we try to focus people because there are a millions things you could learn, but those are four areas we think you ought to focus on.

Steve Kayser:  I’d like to stay on the topic of  “Gaining knowledge” for a bit longer. Say you focus on learning about yourself, your people,  your industry, about the future and what other great leaders are doing. Say we do that. That’s time-consuming. Not that I’m lazy – I am efficient. I believe in the dictum …

“Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?

But sometimes you begin to get overwhelmed with just the “doing.” It seems sometimes that all your time now is spent doing – instead of learning and thinking.  I have a name for it now. Because I suffer from it. It’s called the “doing dumb, dumb doing, syndrome.” You spend so much time doing you become dumb. I find myself doing it a lot at times – which then leads to multitasking. Multitasking so I can get accomplished what needs to be done, in the quickest way. For example, I get stuck on social media networks, connections, distribution, etc. It’s a time-suck. A soul suck too I think.

 How do you get away from multitasking your way into stupidity?

Ken Blanchard: I think that’s a great concept you describe there. Well, I think one of the things that great leaders do is they do focus and they don’t try to be experts on everything. They try to focus in on a few things and that takes discipline because you can become a junkie now and just spend all your day there. I’m worried about young kids that aren’t getting out and exercising, or doing anything phyical. They’re all inside, on the computer playing games. And I think that’s a major concern, but I think you need to focus on what’s important and not be a generalist about everything.

To successfully gain knowledge, focus on learning about yourself, your people, your industry, th future of your industry and what other great thinkers and leaders are doing.

End Part 1.


 Part 2 of this interview will cover “reaching out to others.”

Flickr Photo courtesy of the inimitable H.Kopp Delaney.