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Leadership: Is the secret to success a secret?

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This guest blog post is by SmartBrief contributor Daley Epstein.

Each semester, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin’s IM Program invites executive speakers to campus to help students learn more about the changing world of technology-enabled business. This post is from a lecture by John Humphrey, co-founder and chairman of the board of Pariveda Solutions, discussing leadership and success.

Looking for the coveted secret to success? The enigmatic ingredients aren’t what you might expect, says John Humphrey, co-founder and chairman of Pariveda Solutions. “You always need to be working on your value system,” he says. Certain ingredients are innate gifts, such as hard work, intelligence and tenacity, but three primary things all leaders should work on consistently are values, relationships and balance.

  • Values. Strong, defined values are the building blocks of any successful business and key to long-term success. “Just as you do with a person, our company defined what we stood for before we started,” Humphrey said. Pariveda established its key values under the five overarching categories of integrity, partnership, servant leadership, excellence and profit — in that order. “Why is integrity at the top of the list?” he says. “Where are we at when integrity is challenged?” Citing Enron’s failure and the Bernie Madoff scandal as self-explanatory examples, Humphrey states, “What goes around comes around, and it does so without fail.” Work with others and not against them.
  • Relationships. Whether in the middle of a job search or looking for the right specialist to enhance your company, “The secret to success in life is about relationships,” he says. Diligently maintain and expand your network web through sites such as LinkedIn and personal contact lists. “When you think about connecting, you must begin think exponentially.”
    For example, take compound interest. Evaluate a number of people and potential matches, understanding that two people breed one relationship, three breeds three, four breeds six, five breeds ten, six breeds fifteen and so on. The most important thing, he says, is to keep getting to know the people you don’t know.
  • Balance. The first and least obvious question — What is work/life balance? Second — Is balance even achievable? According to Humphrey, there isn’t a two-sided scale, it’s more of a five-part wobble. The wobble includes spiritual, relational, emotional, physical and intellectual needs, each stemming from the central “you.” Although each category needs specialized nurturing and attention, “You can’t let it (one category) go for too long. There’s a bank account in each of these circles, and it can be spent … don’t overspend,” he cautions. Like any other asset, overspending of these accounts leads to debts. If you debt-spend, you are going to have to work even harder to get out of it.

Humphrey’s advice boils down to this: Take the time to clearly establish your company’s values; only then can you build adequate, genuine relationships.

What does your company stand for?