The Shaping of an Effective Leader


Dr. Gayle Beebe is the guest this week on Leadership Development News. He has written a very interesting book that we will talk about, along with his experiences which are very broad. His book is called, The Shaping of an Effective Leader: Eight Formative Principles of Leadership. He currently is the President of Westmont College in Montecito, California and has been there since 2007. Before that he was the President of the Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years.

At his inauguration in 2008 as the President, he had Steve Forbes speak on his behalf and welcome him to the college. Steve Forbes is the Chief Executive Officer for Forbes. Also, Steve Sample who is the former President of the University of Southern California.

It’s very interesting from a leadership perspective, because not only are we going to talk about his book, but he has been a leader in numerous organizations. In his past he has been a pastor for a variety of different churches, he has been a professor at Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific. He then received an MBA in Strategic Management from the Drucker School at the Claremont Graduate University. Then he also received an MA in philosophy. He’s very well educated and has a Ph.D. in philosophy and religion also from Claremont.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Gayle welcome to the show. Thank you for taking some time to be with us.

Dr. Gayle Beebe: Well, thank you for having me. It’s great to be with you.

Dr. Relly Nadler: One of the things that we like to do is get a little background on folks. Who have been some of your main leadership influences in your life?

Dr. Gayle Beebe: Well, first and foremost was my father. He was a public school superintendent and we had to be at the breakfast table every morning at 7:00 am. Then we were all very active. Both he with his school responsibilities and four kids, all of us active in sports, music and whatnot. So life was very busy, but there was always time for conversation. He would always bring elements of his job into family conversations. The things he was thinking through and thinking about. I realized years later that what he was actually doing was helping orient us to the human dimension of every situation. He had an incredible love for people. Wonderful respect for the human spirit in every one of us. But he also had this sense of human motivation and where people were well motivated and where they weren’t.

It gave me just a sensitivity to how you work with people in a way that brings out the best in them and how you motivate them. But then also, when people are being ineffective, to see what is going on in their life. Have  compassion and take an interest in them, call them to a higher way of living and encourage them and try to get them back on track. He was an eternal optimist and that certainly flavored me.

Then of course many of the people that have gone on; Dr. Drucker was a huge influence on me. Dr. Sample was just incredibly available to me as I became a president back in 2000. I was just so thankful for his availability. Then, a guy named Dr. Dave McKenna who had been president of three different colleges and universities; he was so helpful and so very much a part of my life. In fact, later today I’m going to be talking with him on the phone as we just go through some things.

I’ve had a number of people that have really poured their life into mine and have always been available to me when I needed advice and consultation. I think I grew up with an interest in hearing the opinions and perspectives of people older and wiser than myself. That’s just the disposition that I have. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk through things and continue to learn and grow as a result of it.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: How was the decision made that everybody would meet for breakfast at 7:00 am and how long did you have for breakfast?

Dr. Gayle Beebe: How the decision was made was I grew up in a religious home, and I still follow, I’m a person of faith. So 7:00 am you had to be at breakfast because at 7:10 we would have the time of family gathering and we would always read a portion of scripture and discuss it, and then talk about what did we face for the day, each of us. It’s actually a way in which my father showed remarkable respect for each one of us because we would hear his schedule, but each one of us got to share our schedule and it actually made us thoughtfully engage our day for a few minutes before we scurried out of the house.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That is so empowering, Gayle, that really is.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Talking about your practice in the morning with your family; I just want to make a comment. I heard this from Brian Tracy: the first hour of the day is the rudder of the day. What a nice way to set the course for your whole family, with that ritual. As we talk about leadership and as a listener in our audience, what are some of the key rituals for you that help set the course not only for you but for the teams that you lead?

Dr. Gayle Beebe: Certainly, I get up early every morning. I read, I have my routine. I think through my day and think about each person I’ll meet during the day. That really, I do think, is a result of this experience growing up as a child where each morning at breakfast the day started with a fairly predictable routine that actually got us thinking beyond ourselves and thinking about the people that we would engage and the responsibilities that we had.

I think being able to anticipate what is coming and I know in all of your work with emotional intelligence, one of the things that we run into is the necessity of having the capacity to self regulate. What I have found is that when you begin to anticipate the day, you have a sense of how some meetings will go, they are going to be a little bit harder than others, you’re anticipating some you are actually looking forward to because you anticipate a lot of positive energy and flow out of that.

Those kinds of anticipations get you game ready for what you’ll face. I think it gives you a greater capacity to self-regulate and to develop a level of self-awareness so that you can make the right response in whatever circumstance you find yourself. You never do it perfectly. Part of what I found is that these early morning moments of self-reflection are also the time when I really become aware of people I need to go back to and self-correct. Or I overreacted or underreacted, didn’t give good direction or gave too much. It’s really where I become aware of not only what I’ll face that day, but what I need to go back to in order to really be sure that things are on track.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, that’s huge. I think you know, like we know, that for busy executives, taking that reflective time is so important.

One of the things we really wanted to pick your brain about is your relationship with Peter Drucker. We’ve interviewed Marshall Goldsmith and Peter Drucker was a big part of his life. Tell us a little bit about that relationship for you.

Dr. Gayle Beebe: Dr. Drucker was just remarkable. I first met him when I was doing my dual degree at Claremont and I’d gone there to do a Ph.D. in philosophy and a MBA in strategic management. The first day he gave the orientation lecture. He was 80 years old, I think he celebrated his 81st birthday a day later that fall. He said so many things that day during orientation that still linger in my mind and really remind me of how insightful he was. I would end up taking four classes with him; that first fall I had a class with him.

During class he would have you fill out a 3×5 card if you had any questions. He would write a quick response if he could handle it quickly. He might call you on the phone and talk to you about it, or he might invite you to lunch. I remember one night the phone rang in our apartment, we didn’t have children yet—we were living in North Orange County and I could hear my wife struggling with the call and I just assumed it was a telemarketer or something. She turned to me and she said, you know there is a person on the phone who wants to talk to you. I think he said his name is Peter.

Well, if you ever talk to Dr. Drucker, he has a thick Viennese accent and he was very hard to understand until you got into the cadence of his speech. He was on the phone and he was calling to invite me to lunch.

So we had lunch at Grizwald’s and that’s really how our relationship and friendship started, as a result of this first Master class in the fall of 1990. What I found so remarkable is that I loved watching his mind work. He taught, on campus, Monday’s from 1-4 without breaks. He would say this: if you need a break go ahead and take one, we’re not stopping.

You would watch his mind range all of this information and he had this incredible capacity to anticipate trend lines. Both in his speaking and in his writing, what was so remarkable to me is that the only other person I’ve seen whose mind worked this way was Henry Kissinger. Where they say things and they have this synthesizing mind that is so far beyond anything else you are reading or hearing. He really did anticipate these trends.

I literally still find myself cycling into things he said that are relevant, and we are 20 years down the road from when I studied with him. He just had that capacity to see things and the way in which these kinds of realities work when you have human nature involved in it. I loved his attitude towards humans: focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses. I love what he says: there isn’t such a thing as ethics in business/business ethics, there is just ethics. You are either an ethical person or you are a non-ethical person. It doesn’t matter what circumstance you are in. I love the respect he had for the human spirit and the way in which he carried out that respect.

I have never seen a person of his prominence show such respect to janitors, to lawn care people; his willingness to stop and encourage people. He could be gruff if he needed to be, but he was a true gentleman and incredibility sensitive to the common person and had such a common touch with them.

Listen to more our our interview with Dr. Gayle Beebe, without commercials, above. Hear more about his time at Westmont and about his book, The Shaping of an Effective Leader.

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