Book review: N.C. leaders give advice on success
“Secrets of Success: North Carolina Value-Based Leadership,” Gen. H. Hugh Shelton. Photographs by Simon Griffiths. Ivy House Publishing Group, Raleigh. 2009. $49.95.
By Deirdre Parker Smith
Gen. H. Hugh Shelton, who retired from the U.S. Army and was the 14th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has produced a new book on leadership and success.
Shelton established the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center at North Carolina State University to help “inspire, educate, and develop values-based leaders committed to personal integrity, professional ethics, and selfless service,” as he writes in the preface to the new book.
The idea developed over the last couple of years, Shelton said in a telephone interview. “It surfaced in our board of advisers meetings.” The search began for “successful people at the top of their field,” Shelton said.
He was looking for leaders “steeped in personal integrity, professional ethics and selflessness.” It was hard to narrow the list down to the 33 in the book.
Shelton grew up in Speed, a little town east of Raleigh. “I lived on the farm until I graduated from State in 1963.” He went into the Army for two years, then worked in the textile industry for a while. When he went back in the Army, he served in Vietnam and all the conflicts that followed ó Desert Storm, Kosovo, Bosnia, even Afghanistan ó before retiring in 2001.
After years of being quiet about his service, he is now working on a book, “Without Hesitation or Reservation,” about his experiences.
“Secrets of Success” is a large format book with black and white photos of leaders from all over North Carolina, with the opposite page dedicated to their lessons as leaders.
William Friday, president emeritus of The University of North Carolina, writes in the foreward, “General Shelton is showing us that there is a better way and that it is our task, yours and mine, to rediscover and recommit ourselves to the ancient virtues of truth, integrity, compassion, trust, decency, civility and service to others.”
The tone for the volume is established ó work to be your best and teach others to do the same.
Pieces include one from the late Kay Yow, woman’s head basketball coach at N.C. State for many years. She advises leaders to remember to keep things in perspective: “OK, so you won. But you have responsibilities, and you are accountable for things, and you will have to be sure that those things are taken care of. You can’t lose focus and lose track.”
Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse praises his father, Billy Graham, for being the same man at home and in public and advises, “Leadership is something that God gives you. He gives you the insight and instincts to do the right thing. Leaders have to make those right decisions, not do what’s most expedient or best for the moment, but do what is the best for the ministry, the business, the nation, and the world.”
All branches of the military are represented here, including Rear Admiral Ralph E. Suggs, retired from the U.S. Navy and a Harley Davidson senior executive.
He writes, “Leadership is about relationships. I don’t care if you’re the captain of the carrier USS America or a Harley-Davidson executive. It’s about being able to articulate and communicate a vision that’s shared.”
North Carolina’s Native Americans are well represented by Dr. Carmaleta Littlejohn Monteith and Donna Chavis.
Monteith, president of North American Indian Women’s Association and a Cherokee cultural preservationist, writes, “More than anything else, leadership is about one word and that’s commitment. You can’t just sign on. You have to commit.”
Chavis, executive director of NCGives, grew up in Pembroke in a Native American family. Her daddy said, “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have!”
North Carolina is lucky to have many leaders who have national reputations, people who have represented the values of the state in many walks of life.
Charlie Rose, whose interview show is broadcast on PBS, writes in a tone familiar to television viewers, measured and sincere: “Leadership isn’t about marketing, salesmanship, or just because you can make a speech. The essence of a leader comes from many things, the content of a life, from experience, from the capacity to communicate the mission. … Leaders have to be able to lay out a plan to achieve victory.”
Arnold Palmer is familiar with victory after decades on the PGA tour. A business owner and golf course designer, he has learned to listen: “My leadership philosophy has always been very basic. I give the other person the opportunity to express themselves and then listen. Then you can respond to that person in the way that you’d like to be treated.”
David Murdock, the developer of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, repeats his mantra, “To do the impossible you must see the invisible.”
Julius Chambers opened the first integrated law practice in North Carolina and is a former chancellor of North Carolina Central University. He offers these wise words: “Now what I learned about leadership was this: It’s about people committed to a cause, and those providing leadership better be prepared to do what they need to do, to do the right thing, do it right.”
And William Harrison, former chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan emphasizes the people part of the equation: “Great leaders have excellent interpersonal skills; they relate well to people. If they want to make something happen, they’ve got to be able to get their people behind them, because change or progress is not a unilateral action. Attitude is paramount.”
You’ll also find such notables as former governors Jim Hunt and James E. Holshouser Jr. and racing legend Richard Petty, who talks about opening the Victory Junction Gang Camp as a tribute to his late grandson, Adam.
Putting the book together was a group effort ó ranging from administration at NCSU to Simon Griffiths, the photographer, and Bob Cairns, for the concept, research and interviews.
Shelton hopes “the book will serve as a primer for young people” to read about leaders such as Yow, “and see how these great leaders led and what made a difference in their lives. And I hope it influences the young people’s lives.”
He hopes schools will put the book in their libraries to offer inspiration.
“We weren’t trying to impress anyone,” Shelton said. “We wanted it to be straightforward.”