Elephant Leaders Lead By Example


A leader who fails to lead by example soon finds himself leading no one.  Elephant leaders grow in influence and inspire others to follow by the example they set.


Always do everything you ask of those you command.
— George S. Patton


I recently introduced elephant matriarchs as a good example of natural leaders.  They are respected by the herd for their long history of good decision-making and compassion for others. They exhibit courage, wisdom, and excellent work ethic. These are all admirable and important attributes, but the defining characteristic of a leader is influence.  As John Maxwell so aptly states in his book Developing the Leader Within You, “Leadership Is Influence: Nothing More, Nothing Less.”  Influence, however, is an earned attribute. It is not something innate within a person, nor can it be learned; it can only be amplified over time as one consistently demonstrates leadership to others.

Essential to gaining influence is leading by example. A leader who fails to lead by example soon finds himself leading no one. Potential followers will interpret the lack of action as a lack of commitment and look elsewhere for the leadership they need.

American WWII general George Patton’s convictions about leading by example are reflected in the quote above.  Another important WWII general was Douglas MacArthur, who penned The MacArthur Tenets of Leadership outlining the principles by which he led. Among those tenets are principles whereby he acknowledges the importance of leading by example:

  • Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?
  • Do I act in such a way as to make my subordinates WANT to follow me?

As a military general, MacArthur understood that he had to “lead from the front”.  In order to be followed, he had to set an example that inspired his men to follow, that built trust.  He understood that if he simply directed the battle from behind the lines, his troops would not have his courageous and confident example to follow, with potentially disastrous results.

Like good military generals or elephant matriarchs, leaders in professional services must build trust and influence by constantly offering themselves as examples for their teams and organizatons.  If a project requires that team members work a weekend, the leader must make himself or herself available over the weekend as well, in support of that project team.  If goals or self reviews are due from team members on a certain date, the leader must make certain that their own goals and self review is also completed by the appropriate date.  This is leadership that inspires those that follow and creates influence, which in turn enables the leader to better lead.

Do you recall an example where you or another leader did something demonstrable that increased their influence and inspired others to follow? How about an instance where someone’s influence was damaged by their failure to lead by example?  Leave a comment and share your experiences!

Discovering Hidden Capacity: An Interview with Chris Vandersluis

This month I introduced the Triple Constraint of PSO Profitability.  The triple constraint states that revenue growth rate, delivery cost, and service quality are interrelated variables that impact the profitability of your professional services business.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Chris Vandersluis, CEO of HMS Software, publishers of TimeControl timesheet software. Chris has nearly three decades of experience in enterprise time and project management, and was willing to share some of the ways his customers have found to free up existing project resources by capturing and then mining non-project time to find and eliminate unnecessary activities.  Referring back to the triple constraint of PSO profitability, they are finding ways to increase their revenue growth rate (and therefore profitability) without increasing delivery costs, by focusing project resources on activities that directly grow their business.  And as you will hear, the cost savings or revenue acceleration achieved can be quite significant!

Listen to Interview with Chris Vandersluis


Chris also blogs on enterprise project management.  You can follow him at www.epmguidance.com.


Driving Professional Services Growth

Want to drive the value of your professional services business?  Understand and then intentionally manage the triple constraint of PSO profitability.

Professional services leaders are constantly being challenged to deliver more with less, to provide more services to more customers with fewer resources, all the while maintaining the quality of those services.  Savvy customers have further complicated this seemingly impossible task by requiring prototypes or workshops prior to the services sale, demanding specific resources for their projects, and inserting procurement professionals to aggressively negotiate pricing.1

The Triple Constraint of PSO Profitability

The key to driving services growth in the face of these ever increasing challenges is to understand and intentionally manage the triple constraint of PSO profitability.  The concept of a triple constraint was introduced in project management, and simply states that a change in any one of the scope, budget or schedule of a project will impact the other two — they are intimately interrelated.2 In his book Building Professional Services: The Sirens’ Song, Thomas Lah proposes the “Iron Triangle of PS Profitability”, wherein the three interdependent variables for professional services organizations are revenue, references, and repeatability.  Lah suggests that the way to drive professional services growth is to focus on these three factors, where revenue and references impact the top line of the business and repeatability impacts the bottom line.

The Triple Constraint of PSO Profitability

The triple constraint of PSO profitability is analogous to the triple constraint for project management. It is essentially the same triple constraint, but applied to the larger professional services organization instead of to a single project.  Time is replaced by revenue rate3, budget by delivery cost, and scope by service qualityA sustained increase in profitability only occurs when the revenue rate is increased and/or the cost of services delivery is decreased without adversely impacting quality of service.

Profit Levers: References and Repeatability

So how do we meet the demands of delivering more with less, without sacrificing quality and our sanity?  Here is where references and repeatability come into play.  Building and maintaining a solid list of reference customers will tangibly help you to navigate an increasingly complex services sales cycle.  References reflect your quality of service and help to drive your revenue rate. The triple constraint, however, says that in order to realize increased profits from this uptick in revenue rate, you must minimize any increase in delivery costs required to satisfy the additional demand.  Repeatability — offering pre-defined services and pre-configured solutions (reusable IP) — can be used to minimize or even reduce your delivery costs.  In addition to lowering delivery costs, repeat services and pre-configured solutions also reduce the risk and increase the quality of service delivery by eliminating the learning mistakes inherent in custom services.  Repeat services and pre-configured solutions can themselves drive your revenue rate, as they typically result in shorter delivery time frames compared to custom services.

Lah’s iron triangle of PSO profitability, or the triple constraint of PSO profitability presented here are complementary ways of thinking about the same challenges. So which works best for you?  If you’re a seasoned professional services leader who is already using the iron triangle to help manage your business, there’s no need to change.  If you’ve not been introduced to the iron triangle, and in particular if you come from a project management background, the triple constraint may make more sense to you.  In either case, it is critical to the success of your professional services business that you understand these constraints, and that your strategy and operational tactics are built to intentionally manage them.

  1. Winning the Professional Services Sale: Unconventional Strategies to Reach More Clients, Land Profitable Work, and Maintain Your Sanity by  Michael W. McLaughlin
  2. Some references interchange “quality” for “scope”, “cost” for “budget”, and “time” for “schedule”. In all cases the implications remain the same.
  3. The revenue rate is a measure of the growth of an organization’s revenue stream (measured month to month, quarter over same quarter previous year, year over year, etc.). According to the triple constraint, increasing the revenue rate without sacrificing quality of service would typically require an increase in delivery cost (i.e., more resources).