Leadership & Personal Excellence

Shelton, Ken

Dr. Relly Nadler: This week we have Ken Shelton. He is the founder of Leadership Excellence. It’s a 25-year-old leadership development and publishing firm that features three monthly magazines, The Best in Values Based Management, Principle Centered Leadership Tools and Templates.

You may already be familiar with two of Ken’s top magazines; Executive Excellence and Personal Excellence, which appear on the desks of global companies, CEOs, and human performance executives worldwide.

We’ll talk to Ken about both the subject of publishing on the subject of leadership, and how companies can influence their associates through innovative articles and publications on the subject, as well.

Today we are going to talk about leadership excellence and how to create an environment where people want to learn and use publications, to be able to develop more leaders in your organization.

Ken is also the author of Beyond Counterfeit Leadership, Real Success, One-on-One with Steven Covey, and he’s also served as a writer/editor for Steven Covey’s 7 Habit of Highly Effective People and Principled Centered Leadership. He’s also written Walk the Talk, with Eric Harvey, Managing People is Like Herding Cats and Old Dogs, New Tricks, with Warren Bennis. He’s also been responsible for working with Ken Blanchard on Catch People Doing Something Right, and he has also written many, many articles and I guess over 1,000 articles, interviews and commentaries in his lifetime. He has reviewed a variety of books and publications for business throughout his career.

He is one of those special people in the world who have found his way into the hearts of business executives and human performance professionals through both his literary work and actually, as a speaker. He travels the world and has been interviewed by Inc., Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Working Women, which of course is a special place in my heart, Success, and Bottom Line Magazine.

He has also been featured on dozens of radio and television programs, like ours, worldwide.

Ken has agreed to come on us today not only about what it’s like to be a publisher, a literary agent, and someone specializing in personal development, but for those of you that are listening today and who have thought about writing an article or have thought about how you might even contribute an article, we would like you to listen in and hear more about how Ken can share his success and expertise to help you be your best.

Let’s start off with a question about you Ken. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to work in the field of publishing and now leadership and organization development.

Ken Shelton: Well thanks, Cathy. It’s great to be with you and Relly on this great program.

I started some thirty years ago, having had four years in aerospace and experienced what you experience in any aerospace company and that is a lot of what I came to call counterfeit leadership, or simply bad leadership. You have sited the difference in results, you have all the stats that verify the immense polar differences from good too bad, from cold too hot – I guess you have your own thermostat. Is that what you call it Cathy?

Dr. Relly Nadler: The emotional thermostat.

Ken Shelton: I don’t know how that works, but right now it’s about 2 degrees where I am, so anything that can warm you up is all better.

I had a personal experience and then again four years at a university where I was the named university editor of the year, and was fired for it. You learn that simply achieving isn’t necessarily the route to success. Many great achievers and great performers often, are almost penalized for that.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Can you just kind of tell us a little bit more about what that really means? You got fired for being successful?

Ken Shelton: Well, I’m not alone in this. Certainly there are countless examples of peak performers who get fired. When your environment is not a performance based environment, your culture is not based on peak performance but something else, often social and political criteria that aren’t clear at the beginning, then people get fired for peak performance. That’s fairly common in counterfeit systems.

It really sprang from that personal experience and then when I met up with Covey in ’83 and teamed with him on Seven Habits and Principle Centered Leadership, and launched Leadership Excellence Magazine, those 25 years ago, we decided from the get-go we would make it an open forum, not simply a PR piece for Covey and Blanchard, and Tom Peters and the other people we had on in the beginning.

We have published in the common good, if you will, to have an open forum of best thinking on leadership and leadership development. That’s how I got into this gig.

Dr. Relly Nadler: And you have been continuing and are quite prolific, so not only as the editor but also writing quite a lot on your own. One of the questions, Ken, that we love to ask folks, is who has been the most influential people to you either as a teacher on the subject of leadership or has been a profound influence as you being a leader?

Ken Shelton: Well I have been the fortunate student Relly, of all the great minds in leadership. As I mentioned our initial contributing editors included Covey, Blanchard, Peters, Bennis, Sangy; all those top minds of the mid-80s. From there we have had some 5,000 contributing authors over the years including those best-selling authors like Jim Collins and Gary Hammill, and then brilliant minds. I’ve been the fortunate of all those people and every week immerse myself in their ideas as I edit their articles.

Having done this 25 years, a little bit of that seeps in. So I get asked to speak and write on various topics and comment on current issues.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: As you are talking and I’m thinking here about many of our listeners, I know that almost, I’d say over 99%, all have thought about how they may want to get started in writing something about leadership. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you created this forum, Executive Excellence and Personal Excellence and how you or why you first introduced these ideas as different but complimentary media?

Ken Shelton: Sure, I think the expression of your ideas is central to leadership. In fact, in my book on how you can become a more authentic leader, the essence of the root word authentic, is author. You author something that is original to you, that comes out of your heart, soul and mind.

I’ve always felt that expressing ideas was part of leadership. Part of my definition of counterfeit leadership is leaders who really have nothing original to contribute. They are simply puppets of the system, they may be good system men or company men, and yet they have nothing original to them. That’s often found out at a very early stage and they attempt to cover that up.

Publishing is central to authentic leadership. Maybe not in a sense of authoring a book, but the dissemination of the ideas, the broadcasting of ideas for influence. I know that is part of your idea on leadership.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Can you tell us how long as personal excellence been going on and just for people who don’t have them, I first got exposed to Executive Excellence and also around the same time Personal Excellence. What’s the difference and how long has Personal Excellence been going on?

Ken Shelton: We launched 15 years ago because we felt the need, and I think anyone who reads the news can see this, unless there is development on the personal side of your life to balance and compliment the development of you as an organizational leader, you tend to get a tilt. Those manifestations include the kind of things you read in the news.

We actually began with a concept we call “body leadership.” The leadership of your body and then more of a whole life leadership, and then team leadership and organizational leadership.

Se we start with the idea that unless you are leading your life, it’s hard to lead others in a team or organization.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: When you are looking potential articles and you look at the audience that you have to share with; how can you tell what your reading audience wants to know about and how do you know where to place those articles in terms of the Executive Excellence publication or the Personal Excellence publication?

Ken Shelton: Well we are different than a typical newsstand magazine in many regards. We have tried to transcend the medium of a magazine to the point that you don’t read the magazine simply for the entertainment value or even capturing a few good ideas. Our magazines each have seven dimensions to them, and within those seven dimensions, various sub-dimension.

For example, you mentioned Personal Excellence. The seven dimensions of Personal Excellence include: the physical, mental, professional, social, emotional, financial and various sub-dimensions. Articles we prospect or receive unsolicited must fit within those seven dimensions. It’s more or less a template of format that we started some 25 years ago.

Those pretty much fit universal need. It’s like a skeleton key; we pretty much know those are natural dimensions of development. That’s how we determine. If the article fits more on the personal side of your life we run it in Personal Excellence, if it regards more team and organizational it runs in Leadership Excellence.

Enjoy the entire interview by clicking and listening above.


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