expectional leadership

Date: 01/01/2020

I wrote a book about leadership and never explained how I define leadership, more precisely Exceptional Leadership. What is Exceptional Leadership? Do you have to be an exceptional leader to be successful? Will others follow you and support you if you aren’t an exceptional leader? These are very important questions. The answers become more obvious if you can understand what traits exceptional leaders possess.

I see exceptional leadership in three parts. Each part is essential and can't exist without the other.

VISION: A vision of a world that does not exist.

PASSION: A passion for creating your world.

INSPIRATION: The ability to transfer your vision and passion to others.

My definition is very similar in many ways to how Steve Jobs and Jack Welch describe great leaders.

Steve Jobs said:

“What they need is a common vision — and that’s what leadership is. What leadership is: [h]aving a vision; being able to articulate that [vision] so the people around you can understand it; and getting a consensus on a common vision.”

Jack Welch describes a good leader or high performance leader as someone who:

“Has (Energy),

Can articulate a vision and inspire others to perform (Energises),

Makes the tough decisions (Edge),

Has the skill to deliver (Executes),


Never fails to deliver the financials.”

My first two statements alone cannot make a great leader. It’s the third statement that separates someone with a great idea from someone who is an exceptional leader. If you are the only one who has a passion for creating the world you see then you can be an individual who may make a difference in the world but you’ll do it alone and never achieve the full potential of your dream. An African proverb says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far go together.”

Let’s back up and discuss the first statement, A vision of a world that does not exist. Although extremely successful, Bill Gates has never been considered an exceptional leader in the same category as Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Theresa. Why the difference? Bill Gates was able to successfully capitalize on an opportunity. He knew IBM needed an operating system for their new personal computer. He knew someone who had written an operating system that would work. He licensed the operating system to IBM and then purchased the company that created the operating system — in that order.

However, if we look at those who are considered exceptional leaders, they saw something others didn’t. Steve Jobs had a vision of computers that were friendly and easy to use. Martin Luther King Jr. was very explicit in his famous and evocative speech “I have a dream.” They were not simply matching a need with a solution. They saw something that didn’t exist.

In order to comply with my definition of an exceptional leader you don’t need to invent the Macintosh or “have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” You may see a better, more efficient way to perform a process. Maybe you see a more efficient way to sell computers like Michael Dell imagined. Maybe you can see a way to change a single process to improve the quality or efficiency of manufacturing a product. Perhaps an improvement of the customer journey reducing friction. You have a vision of a world that does not exist. A world your idea will improve.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

A lot of us have a vision. How many of us act on it? Acting on your vision is essential to leadership. However, this is very challenging. That’s why I use the word passion in the second part of my definition of an exceptional leader. And specifically, the kind of passion that gets you out of bed when everything is going wrong!

I served as the CEO of the non-profit organization Entrepreneur Launch Pad or simply ELP. ELP has 5 locations along the Wasatch front in Northern Utah. It is a place anyone with an idea for a new product or business can go to share challenges and solutions to creating their business. They also receive instructions on how to take their idea or vision to the next level. I heard 100’s of fantastic ideas while attending the meetings. I also heard 100’s of bad ideas too. One objective of ELP was to help aspiring entrepreneurs recognize when they had an idea worth taking to the next level or one they should abandon.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Given that I saw 100’s of great ideas you would expect I would be able to share 100’s of success stories. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, I only have a couple dozen success stories to share.

I really like this story because it is a great example of “if you want to go far go together.” A young entrepreneur, Jeremy, worked on a ranch when he was a teenager. Part of his work was to put tarps on truck and trailer loads of debris. Typical tarps come with grommets to easily attach a rope or cord in order to tie the tarp to the truck or trailer. The truck or trailer also has hooks or tie-downs to attach the rope or cords. The problem is the tarps never fit the way you want them to and the positioning of the grommets and the hooks never match up. The result is the tarp is never secured properly causing it to tear in the wind and the debris to escape.

Jeremy had a solution. He invented a simple hook you could place anywhere on the tarp. The brilliance in his invention is you don’t have to cut a hole in the tarp in order to secure the hook. Jeremy knew this would be extremely well received by ranchers and others who wanted to attach hooks and not cut holes in tarps or cloth.

After Jeremy spent months and months building his business plan, testing his plan, and trying to find a way to sell his magic hooks, he came to one of our meetings defeated. First, he was struggling to get his idea off the ground. And, then there was more bad news. His wife received notice she would be laid off. Jeremy informed the group his entrepreneurial journey ends here. The group leader quickly spoke up and said “We are not going to let you break up with us!” They had seen his hard work. They recognized the brilliance in his invention.

The mission was clear. He needed a distribution channel and he needed an investor. Jeff quickly spoke up. "My brother-in-law is a buyer at Smith and Edwards." The following week Jeremy was in front of the brother-in-law giving his pitch. The next day Jeremy shared his first P.O. from Smith and Edwards! The same week Blake introduced Jeremey to an Angel investor named Blake. After weeks of due diligence Blake invested in Jeremy and his idea.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Today you can find Jeremy’s invention for tarp hooks as well as the other applications in Smith and Edwards, Cabela’s, and Walmart. He also has a website where you can purchase his products.

This young man had a vision of a world that didn’t exist. He had the passion to create this world, but ran into some obstacles he couldn’t overcome alone. However, he also had the ability to transfer that vision and passion to others who were able to clear the obstacles to his success. With the help of others who he inspired with his passion and vision he was able to “go far.”

I’ve heard it said, “anyone who has taken a shower has had a great idea.” This may be true. However, if everyone who had a great idea or had a vision of a world that doesn’t exist also had the passion to create this world and the ability to inspire those around them to join in on the vision the world would be saturated with exceptional leaders. However, we know this is not the case.

A lot of us, like Jeremey, have a vision. How many of us act on it? Acting on your vision is essential to exceptional leadership. However, this is very challenging. That’s why I use the word passion in the second part of my definition of an exceptional leader. And specifically, the kind of passion that gets you out of bed when everything is going wrong!

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Management said they needed to learn how the Japanese did their manufacturing to bring down their costs. So they brought in experts from Japan to train them. My brother was able to attend the trainings on Just In Time manufacturing. The trainings addressed many of the inefficiencies, but my brother knew they would not work because they didn’t address setup times. Setup times were around 3 hours. The long setup times would defeat all the other gains.

He had an idea. He knew how to bring the 3 hours setup time down to 30 minutes. He began making notes and his notes turned into a full plan on how to improve the set up times. The idea was born. He saw a world that did not exist.

His vision could have died right there. Who was he to tell a group of highly educated manufacturing engineers their process improvements would net nothing if the setup times weren’t fixed? Who was he to tell the highly educated manufacturing engineers how to fix the setup times? The more my brother thought through his idea the more passionate he became. He came to me to help him write up a formal proposal including diagrams and clear descriptions of the new process for setup times. He carefully articulated each new step in the process bringing to the forefront the benefits of each change.

He would stay up late at night working on his idea. He would spend weekends with me reviewing it over and over again to make sure he didn’t miss a step. He ask me to ask him all the tough questions someone else might ask when they challenged his idea. His passion was unstoppable.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

The day came to present it to the full team of area representatives and managers. Although nervous, he had prepared well. He had prepared a printed booklet he handed out. His new ideas was called W.O.R.K. Nobody really understood what they were looking at in his initial meeting. It was a short meeting. The following week, after they had time to get a deeper understanding of the problem they didn’t know existed and my brother’s solution many of them got excited about. They took it to the senior managers who quickly understood and liked the idea.

A VP of engineering volunteered to sponsor my brother and the project. He asked my brother to implement it. It worked. This, combined with other projects that were implemented, was successful. Tektronix once again rose to the top of the industry.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Your vision of a world that doesn’t exist is solid. This vision is driving you to act on it, make it real. Your passion to create this new world is driving your every thought, your every action. It keeps you awake at night. It gets you out of bed in the morning. However, to be an exceptional leader and achieve the highest level of success with your vision you will need to inspire others to see your vision and transfer your passion to them. How can you become the inspiration? How can you transfer this vision and passion to others?

First, when you start talking about your vision others will feel your passion. This will open the door. You have their attention. Now what?

Think about the last time you were really inspired by a leader or a new technology. Was it the detailed description of a step by step plan that inspired you? Was it the description of each computer chip used in the new technology that inspired you. Most likely, no. We react emotionally first. We feel emotions about people, people’s ideas, new processes, or new technologies first. If the emotions we feel are positive we want to act on them.

Later we’ll talk about the next step which is justifying the action with the intellectual side of our brains. But first, let’s explore the emotional reaction. If emotions compel you to want to act, then this is the first consideration when you want to inspire others. Your first step is to elicit an emotional feeling.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

In Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” he describes The Golden Circle. Using The Golden Circle he explains where we think we should start the conversation, the intellectual place, and where we really need to start our conversation, the emotional place.

Mr. Sinek says we start most conversations talking about the outer ring of the circle, the “What.” Then we move to the middle ring of the circle and talk about the “How.” Eventually, although generally we never get here, we talk about the center of the circle, the “Why.” He claims this is exactly backwards.

“The Golden Circle provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by first asking why.”

  • The Golden Circle is an alternative perspective

  • It offers clear insight as to how Apple is able to innovate in so many diverse industries and never lose its ability to do so.

  • It explains why people tattoo Harley-Davidson logos on their bodies.

  • It provides a clearer understanding not just of how Southwest Airlines created the most profitable airline in history, but why the things it did worked.

  • It even gives some clarity as to why people followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a movement that changed a nation

  • and why we took up John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon even after he died. The Golden Circle shows how these leaders were able to inspire action instead of manipulating people to act.”

He goes on to make this powerful statement. “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

When presenting your new world, remember, people care about why you want to create this world. If you start with the “why” as Simon Sinek suggests, your passion can come through. Starting with the “why” will touch emotions. Not everyone will share the same emotions as you when you describe your “why.” It is important you identify those people up front. You don’t want to spend your precious time with those who don’t share the same or similar emotional feelings towards your “why” which is the reason you want to create your “new world.”

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Touching the emotions is step one but must be followed with the other two rings of Mr. Sinek’s Golden Circle. I like to think of this as the intellectual part of your vision, the How and What, in that order. Now is the time to start discussing the How and the What of your vision.

When I saw the first advertisement for the Apple iPad, I knew I wanted one. Anything new from Apple gets me excited. I just knew I had to have one. What a brilliant idea! My emotional response was off the charts. However, now I had to convince myself and my wife why I was going to spend $800 on an iPad. What was my justification? What was my ROI?

My brain immediately went to work. I remembered sitting in a meeting and pulling up a video on my computer. It was awkward and difficult to see. With an iPad I could have easily handed the tablet to the prospect so he could view the video. Much cleaner, simpler. I remembered sitting in a coach seat on a four hour flight the week before. There wasn’t enough room to open up my computer and work, read an electronic book, or watch a movie. I had the technology at my fingertips. I just didn’t have enough room for the technology. The iPad would have fit perfectly and I could have had a very productive four hour flight.

I had now convinced the intellectual side of my brain. As I talked through all of this with my wife and then mentioned she could easily mount one on the refrigerator to watch one of her favorite movies while she cooked, she frowned. OK, I had let my enthusiasm run a little too far. However, she did agree we could purchase one and see if we could realize all of these benefits I was so excited about. She didn’t share my vision nor my passion, but my passion had convinced her it was important to me.

Once you have shared your passion for your vision by sharing your “Why” and the other person or people relate to your Why and are starting to feel your passion you can share your What and How. When they see your vision, feel you passion, and now understand the What and How you have transferred your vision and passion to others. You have inspired others.

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

Those you are leading need to hear the Why of your vision, feel your passion, and hear your What and How over and over again. This should not be a problem for you because you are so passionate about your vision you have no problem in going through it over and over again including any updates.

When we go back to the story of my brother, he started with his Why when he explained his vision of a world that did not exist when presenting his idea to the head of engineering at Tektronix. Once they understood he wanted to improve efficiencies they were interested in knowing how he proposed to accomplish this. He then went through What he proposed to do and How he proposed to do it. He shared his vision of a world that didn’t exist, he was passionate enough to not stop until he had a great proposal written and proposed it to the head of engineering. He was able to transfer his passion of the new world to the head of engineering by inspiring him with his idea. The result? Not only did they implement his idea but the head of engineering asked him to come work for him to help implement the idea. My brother didn’t have a degree in engineering, but here is was now running a small group in the engineering department reporting directly to the head of engineering!

Written by: Dano Ybarra


Date: 01/01/2020

You have the opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd. You have the opportunity to be an exceptional leader. You don’t need to know every step of the way. You don’t even need to know the first step on how to execute your vision. You just need to see a world that doesn’t exist, have the passion to create this world, and inspire those around you to see the same vision and feel the passion you have for this new world. Just like the young man who wanted to solve the hook problem on tarps, those around you who you inspire will show you the next step and the next step until the world you envision actually exists.

Written by: Dano Ybarra