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Leadership Strategies: March 2007 [Briefings Publications]

Q&A with “Alpha Zone” authors Dr. Eddie Erlandson and Kate Ludeman
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Contributing Editor / Leadership Strategies

ARE YOU IN THE ALPHA ZONE? How to change nonproductive behaviors and increase leadership performance

Dr. Eddie Erlandson spent 20 years practicing vascular surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also co-designed and led Life Lessons, a fitness program that helped hundreds of people reduce health risks, increase life satisfaction and achieve sustainable results in business leadership.

His co-author and wife, Kate Ludeman, is a Ph.D. an author and executive coach who has worked with thousands of senior executives. Her previous books include “The Worth Ethic,” “Earn What You’re Worth,” “The Corporate Mystic,” and “Radical Change, Radical Results.”

The couple now live in Austin, Texas, where they run their consulting company, Worth Ethic Corp., which advises such notables as Meg Whitman of eBay and Larry Lucchino of the Boston Red Sox.

Leadership Strategies: In your new book, “Alpha Male Syndrome,” you identify four types of “alpha males.” Tell us a little about each one.

Erlandson: After years of research, Kate and I found alpha males are tough-minded, hard-driving, highly skilled individuals who can be categorized into four groups:

• Commanders—These men are natural born leaders who know how to get people to do things;

• Visionaries—Leaders who see the big picture;

• Strategists—Those who excel in abstract thinking, problem solving and planning;

• Executors—Leaders who are dogged implementers.

Of course, most alphas have a combination of these personalities, but all have one thing in common: They are wired to achieve results.

LS.: That’s the positive side of being an alpha, right? The book seemed to focus on the fact that the very traits that breed success also carry serious flip-side risks. Why?

Erlandson: According to our research, about 70% of C-level executives are alpha males. However, the characteristics that got them there—competitiveness, impatience and aggressiveness- can be toxic, especially when they start to compete with friends or even their kids. One of the goals of our book is to help those natural born leaders get this aspect of their personalities under control.

LS.: The other goal, it seems, is to help the people who work for alpha males learn to cope with a hard-driving boss.

Ludeman: Definitely. It can be a nightmare working for an alpha, and that’s because they have an insatiable need to win. Unfortunately, those with an alpha boss approach the relationship by responding in one of two ways: Either they cave in and play the victim or they take the opposite tactic, turning every interaction into an ongoing battle in a long war. Both approaches are dead wrong. You have to realize that alpha males are dysfunctional and make up for their flaws by using your abilities. Employees need to stop trying to change the alpha male and focus on their own behavior around him.

LS.: The key, you say, is to never become defensive.

Erlandson: That’s right. Just work from facts and data and be sure to let the alpha know you understand the idea they are trying to convey. Otherwise, the alpha male will continue to be competitive. And never take on an alpha in public. They excel in that play ground.

LS.: Are there no alpha women?

Ludeman: Of course there are, and we all know them. But we decided to focus on males because there are simply more of them—especially in the top executive ranks. As consultants, we also found that while alpha females get angry, they rarely become as belligerent as alpha males. Yes, they like to win, and yes, they set aggressive goals for themselves and their team, but they are not as intimidating or as authoritarian as their male counterparts. A great deal of wreckage is simply caused by boys behaving badly, so that’s why we focus on helping the men.

Do you need to control “alpha male” tendencies? Find out by using the assessment tool on the authors’ Web site: www.WorkEthic.com.

Exclusive Interview with Paul Hogan
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Contributing Editor / Leadership Strategies

PAUL HOGAN USES UNSHAKABLE CONVICTION TO INSPIRE OTHERS Passion, spirituality guide Nebraska senior care entrepreneur

Most entrepreneurs don’t set out to be leaders, believes Paul Hogan, founder in 1994 of Home Instead Senior Care. They simply pursue a passion.

“They dream about ideas taking root and growing,” Hogan says, “but [they] really don’t picture themselves leading an international organization with hundreds of franchised units generating hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.”

That certainly was the case for this Nebraska entrepreneur whose firm last year generated $450 million in revenue and employed 37,000 people. It also served more than 38,000 seniors through its 540 North American franchises and 164 international offices in eight countries, including Japan, Australia, and Portugal.

The idea for Home Instead came to Hogan after watching his grandmother Eleanor suffer through what the family thought would be her final year. “She was 88 and so weak she couldn’t stand up,” Hogan says. “Her 12 children got together and decided they could never put her in a nursing home. So my mother took her and everyone chipped in with meal preparation, visitation, medication reminders and errands.’

Within months, Manhart had become so strong she was able to walk herself to church each day. She lived another 11 years. Hogan wondered what did families do when they didn’t have 12 children, 50 grandchildren and 51 great-grandchildren to pitch in? That’s when he and his wife Lori came tip with the idea to provide care for seniors.

Building the business into a multi-million-dollar enterprise hasn’t been easy, he confesses.

“We set up our original pilot office in my mother’s house so we could be close to my grandmother. Soon after, we had one franchise owned by the daughter of my mentor,” he explains. “We were hanging on, but that second office was struggling to make a business out of our new concept. My mentor warned me that the business might not work.”

Without hesitating, Hogan announced he knew the concept would work—and that he was moving forward with or without him. That unshakable conviction in the idea inspired others to commit.

Hogan believes the real secret to the organization’s enviable success is its commitment to its four core values: honor God in all we do, treat each other with dignity and respect, encourage growth, and build value in our service to others.

“Those values guide our relationships with franchise owners, clients and employees; they are the filters through which we evaluate every decision we make,” Hogan explains, admitting that the first value-honor God in all we do—is the one that most often is challenged.

“I can’t overstate the importance of this value to us. More than any other, it has shaped the company and contributed to what it is today. It has attracted both franchise owners and employees—Christian and Jewish,” he says.

At the same time, Hogan realizes it has caused many to turn away. “Some people just aren’t comfortable talking about God in the workplace, and that’s OK because leaders have the responsibility to set the cultural parameters for their organizations.”

However, most of his customers are at the end of their lives and many have a need to be spiritual. “By having this be a core value for us, it makes it easier for everyone to be authentic.”

Learn more about Home Instead Senior Care: www.homeinstead.com.

Copyright by Briefings Publishing Group, a division of Douglas Publications, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of these issue samples in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. For more information, visit www.briefings.com.


"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.