Leader of the Month for October 2006:
Jim Amos's Story
When asked to share his personal story, Jim Amos calls himself a becomer. He elaborates on that thought by explaining that he is on what he calls the journey. It is the journey that Jim sees as the metaphor for leadership, and he shares his thoughts of that metaphor below.
To everyone that lives, there is a metaphor, story, or analogy for life that becomes reflective of our influence, which is, in fact, leadership. So in that sense everyone is a leader because everyone has influence on at least one other person, whether they know it or not. So, I think the analogy, or metaphor for life, is that we're haunted with the sense that there is someone calling us forth on a journey, that life is a journey. I think the human odyssey is the quest for purpose, the quest for meaning, the quest for destination. For life's journey to have a homecoming, we have to have some sense of our bearings, and, more importantly, our destination. And that's what we are born into this world to pursue and find. So often in our journey, we find the very things that we are striving to achieve turn out to be less than we desired when we wanted them in the first place. It's that incompleteness that points to something more out there somewhere. John Eldredge writes about it in The Journey of Desire. He says, "Having it all simply isn't enough." There obviously is a limit to the success worth buying and toys worth accumulating. I don't think the business world--and the actual battlefield of business and life--ever gives that roadmap for accepting what the deeper things are. And the deeper things are the eternal goals and the eternal views. And so it backs down to one frightening fact for me: The bedrock reality to our existence is that we are limited to the fact that we are not going to be here for long. The statistics on death are pretty amazing: one out of one. So the questions end up being begged, how do we make the most of our brief and marvelous life, in the face of death? Does our journey count? Where and when does our journey end? If you think about it, the great literature all addresses these issues. St. Augustine cried out, "Proof. Proof. The very marrow of my soul yearns for it." Max Weber said, "Truth or nothing." I think the search for truth is in the journey. Whether we like to admit it or not, our journey is one of faith because there aren't any roadmaps for it: It's just travelers like you and me. Dante wrote The Divine Comedy, and he said, "Midway in my life's journey, I find myself in a dark world." That journey derives from places like "Exodus" in the Bible, to the Odyssey, to Virgil's Aeneid, to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Today, examples of the journey are found in Space Odyssey, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Holy Grail, or Don Quixote. What are all of those if they are not about being on a journey in search of truth? It's all the same thing. And if there was more of a prominent modern example it would be the Trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. In it, Gandalf says, "We can't choose the times in which we live. All we have to decide is what we are going to do with the times in which we live." That is an amazing metaphor, and it is probably the metaphor for every life that has ever been born.
For the trail he has blazed as a leader on the journey, and the example and inspiration he has given to other travelers, Jim Amos is the Leader of the Month for October 2006.
About Jim Amos
Author and CEO
Bio: born in St. Louis, Missouri, April 10, 1946; has lived and worked all over the world (currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, USA); graduated from the University of Missouri; Chairman/CEO of Sōna Medspa International; Chairman Emeritus of Mailboxes, Etc. (designed MBE/UPS Merger); past chairman of the International Franchise Association; recipient of the Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam; serves on the boards of The National Veteranís Administration, The Marine Military Academy, The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Meineke Mufflers, Orek NuMarkets, The University of Missouri, The International Franchise Association and Ken Blanchardís Faith Walk Leadership Board.
Philippians 4:8 "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, anything that is praiseworthy, think about these things." I think that is just a good philosophy to embrace, and it is one of the quotes I use to sign books with.
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay: "We must have many Lincoln-hearted men."
Woodrow Wilson: "America lives in the heart of every man, everywhere, who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses."
Charles Spurgeon (on the Bible): "Herein lies thoughts that breathe and words that burn."
Current personal passion: It is hard for me not to bring a great deal of passion and energy to whatever I happen to be focused on at the moment. Personal growth is imperative, so that you can continue to lead better. A stream does not rise higher than its own source, so if you are going to embrace leadership, you must continue to grow. If you are not growing, you are not continuing to earn the right to lead others, who might choose to follow. My passion comes out for me in the work that I do: speaking, writing and participating on boards.
Listen to Jim's thought-provoking response to Brian McCormick's query about his favorite books by clicking here. Three books at the top of the list for Jim are the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, and The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall.
In this audio clip, Jim describes his dream. Listen to the clip by clicking here.
Listen to Jim respond to Brian McCormick's question about the experiences vital to his development by clicking here.
Click here to listen to Jim credit his wife, Jesus Christ, and his experiences in combat in response to Brian McCormick's query about the turning points of his life.
Listen to Jim describe his lifetime leadership highlights by clicking here.
Listen to Jim respond to the question of his travels in life by clicking here.
What Others Say About the Leadership of Jim Amos
Zig Ziglar, Leader of the Month for November 2004: "I have personally worked with Jim Amos as a board member, watched him in at least three different business ventures, and observed that as a leader he brings people together and gets the job done. He is a man of integrity and does the right thing in the right way. Thatís leadership."
Ken Walker, CEO of Meineke Car Care Centers: "When I think of Jim, the things that come to mind to describe him are highly-principled, hard working, and Judeo-Christian valued. In terms of his leadership style, I think Jim is a forceful, visionary leader. He decides what he thinks needs to be done and then uses all his powers to convince others, showing and giving them a vision, and then moving them in that direction."
Matthew R. Shay, President of the International Franchise Association: "The International Franchise Association has long benefited from the active involvement and strong, enlightened leadership of Jim Amos. As a lifelong entrepreneur, Jim brought a new level of energy and enthusiasm to the franchising sector many years before he was honored by his peers to serve in the top leadership position as chairman of the organization. Jim never hesitates to challenge the status quo and possesses a natural ability to inspire confidence and gain othersí support in the quest of progress."
Don Debolt, a past President of the International Franchise Association: "Leadership is often the ability to breathe new life and passion into an otherwise motionless idea. Jim's leadership really counted for something during his tenure as chairman of the International Franchise Association when he led the effort to secure IFA Board approval to revive a program known as VetFran, which was initially conceived in 1991 during the first Gulf War. After the war ended, VetFran lost momentum and for nearly seven years lay dormant. The program's goal was to express franchising's appreciation to our fighting men and women who risked their lives for their country. IFA franchisors agreed to offer veterans significant financial incentives to investigate franchising as one alternative for their future as they transitioned back into civilian life. Jim, in collaboration with the daughter of the original founder of VetFran, revived the program and on behalf of IFA, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the then-Assistant Secretary of the Veterans Administration on February 12, 2002. Then, the real leadership task began in securing participation agreements from franchise companies. Jim led that charge; today, more than 200 franchise companies actively seek the opportunity to work with veterans through this program. That's what leadership is all about, making that significant difference."
Charlie Jones, Leader of the Month for February 2006: "Jim Amos is one of the few people that I've known that has led in everything he has done, from the Marine Corps, to Mailboxes, Etc., to UPS, to today; Jim is an example of what a true leader is. Jim knows that leadership is not title nor personality--though he has both--but he has learned that the secret of leadership is the price. And he pays the price; as a result, people follow him, admire him, and emulate him. He is one of my top ten role models that I would want to follow and look to in my own life. He is selfless and humble, yet he is an aggressive and very powerful person. You find very few people that have all those qualities wrapped up in one person."
Vince Ackerson, Executive Vice President at Texas Capital Bank: "Jim truly knows how to inspire and motivate people to their core, which is really hard to do. He brings out the best in all of his employees and people that he works with. Jim is a really courageous person: He stands up for what is right and what he believes in. Even if that costs him personally or financially, he is willing to do it and is not going to compromise his values. He is probably one of the most passionate people that I know towards his beliefs. Jim is somebody I would always count on."
Jim Amos and Leadership
Books recommended for aspiring leaders: In addition to the books I mentioned previously, On Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf is a powerful one.
Most admired leader: Without question, the most admired leader that jumps to the top of the list for me is Abraham Lincoln. I probably have more books on Lincoln than any other single individual in my library. I just think that the challenge he faced is the most significant challenge since Washington. The way he handled the challenge and, his ability to provide effective, strong leadership, was quite remarkable. By the way, he used great humor simultaneously while in his leadership role. Jim also counts spiritual leaders as his most admired and would love to sit down at a table with Jesus, Peter, Paul or many others.
Traits most important in a good leader: Leadership is amoral: Just like the rain falls on the good and the bad, the good and the bad leaders can embrace certain systems and processes that lead to their objectives. In my view, you have to first define that word good, and I have defined it as "trustworthy." And the two pieces that contribute to trustworthiness are character and competence. I just do not think you can lead with responsibility if you do not have the best interest of the follower in mind and if you do not give up--in some sense--a life of your own. You can not be completely selfish and lead. So you have to have strong character. And the other piece is competence of course. You can have great character and complete competence and still be untrustworthy. You can be the most competent person in the world and have poor character traits, and you are going to be untrustworthy. So those two pieces define the fundamental traits of leadership.
Best training programs for leaders: Well, I would say, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, and when you have finished with that, I would read some more. I just can not suggest anything more expansive than that. There is no lack of information about the science and art of leadership. I would recommend attending programs that are out there, whether it is Stephen R. Covey, or whomever. Listen to the tapes and ideas of people like my dear friend Zig Ziglar, my dear friend Ken Blanchard, and my dear friend Charlie Jones.
What do organizations do to encourage or stifle leaders? Stifling is micromanaging. I have always viewed my role as a CEO as quite simple and as essentially having three responsibilities: (1) clarify and define the vision and defend the values, (2) people selection because people run systems, systems do not run people, (3) resource allocation which relates to strategic planning. You have to hire people that are better than you are in the discipline that they are in, and then give them the flexibility--after defining the vision--to go out and do it. If they can not execute, it is not their fault, it is your fault for hiring the wrong person. So, I think you stifle leadership by not letting them apply their skills to their discipline. Encouraging leadership is just the opposite of that: It is defining the vision, giving them the tools they need to perform, and letting them do it. It is creating an environment of learning in which they can continue to grow, and it is providing the personal example for them. But you have to decide to grow from within. And what you can not do is allow that only to be the experiences you have in life because life does not offer us enough time to experience enough learning. But you can crawl into the mind of a sixteenth-century John Bunyan and hear what he has to say about leadership. You can crawl into the mind of a Peter Marshall or a Jesus or a Paul. You can crawl into the mind of Whitaker Chambers by reading his Witness. What a phenomenal work that is! You can crawl into the mind of people like that and experience amazing events in life and understand the pushes and pulls that they had and how they overcame them. I will end where I began: read.
Listen to Jim respond to Brian McCormick's question about his advice to aspiring leaders by clicking here.
What other advisement can you provide for leaders? There is a chapter on leadership in Focus or Failure that outlines my views on leadership. To folks who are leaders or who are aspiring to grow as leaders, follow your dreams. Don't compromise. Don't follow the money: follow your dreams. Follow your passion. The money will come if that is God's will for you. But follow your dreams. With money as the focus, you'll never be happy, or perhaps more precisely, "you'll never know joy."
For More About Jim Amos
Read the books Jim has authored: Focus or Failure: America at the Crossroads (about bringing together corporate America to help children), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Franchising, and The Memorial (about Jim's experience in the U.S. Marine Corps).
Additionally, Jim has been a contributor to the following books: Above and Beyond: Former Marines Conquer the Civilian World, Corporate Giants: Personal Stories of Faith and Finance, The Entrepreneurís CreedóThe Principles & Passions of 20 Successful Entrepreneurs, and The Transparent Leader.