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Leader of the Month for January 2006:

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall's Story

As offered by Brian McCormick:

The story of Kevin Hall is one of depth and breadth. Kevin takes the words we use to articulate ourselves everyday, researches those words, and then opens our minds by revealing the words’ true significance.

In order to arrive at meaningful definitions, Kevin critically analyzes the etymology of words, the definitions that different languages have assigned to words, and the connotations applied to words by different cultures. Once Kevin’s research is complete, he interprets the words and presents them in an illuminating manner, enabling us to better understand the implications of the words in our language and our lives. Kevin unleashes the power found in the words we use to express ourselves and has aptly named his upcoming series of books The Power of Words.

For Kevin’s ability to capture the essence of words, his gift of that interpretation to the world, and the remarkable leadership he offers, Kevin Hall is the Leader of the Month for January 2006.

In Kevin's own words:

Growing up, people highlighted and pointed out the path to me. I always remember the quote that “He who holds a lantern to light the pathway of his brother sees more clearly his own,” by Antoine R. Ivins. He also said, “I must confess that in helping others I gain wisdom, strength, and courage.” I grew up in a challenging environment, and I did not always have my physical, spiritual, or social needs taken care of. As a result of that, my passion has become human development because I had leaders point out the path for me. The root lea in Indo-European means “path” and der literally means “finder.” So a leader is a pathfinder, the person with the best vision. The leader is the person looking for the sign of the game; the leader finds that target, sees the sign, and then communicates to followers. That is how the leader is the pathfinder. Often, the leader does not even initially set out to lead. Gandhi and Viktor Frankl are good examples of this type of leader. For me, as a child, I remember one individual who said, “You know what? We are going to teach you how to set goals. We are going to teach you that you can make a difference in the world. We are going to show you how to do the best that you can do.” For me, that leader was my Scoutmaster, Ray Freeman. He taught me how to take my God-given talents and maximize them. Ray was one of the first of my pathfinders, and he literally changed my life. He also pointed out the options that were out there if you wanted to avail yourself and chose to live your life responsibly. Hyrum Smith, the co-founder of FranklinCovey, served as a great mentor, and pathfinder later in my life. He is fond of saying that “if you can teach a dog to rollover, you’ve got something. But if you can teach a dog to teach another dog to rollover then you’ve really got something.” He gave me the opportunity to lead the Franklin sales force at a very young age and has greatly influenced my passion for leadership and human development.

Over time a passion for what it is that makes us click arose in me. In my adult life, I was tested at the Human Research Laboratory (now the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation). Johnson O’Connor is one of the foremost authorities on human behavior, very strong on education and developing our vocabulary. And what surfaced from that became a thesis that I have thought many times: You can not think higher than your vocabulary. You can not lead past your vocabulary. And, I took a test there called Ideaphoria. For the test, you were given a subject and directed to simply start writing. I did not force it, I just wrote what came into my mind. They came back and told me I was in the 99th percentile of anyone ever tested, for this form of idea generation and creativity. Then they suggested that I really ought to write. I did not do much about that recommendation for about twelve years, but now that I have in the last two or three years, it has been like I am in the sweet spot. I have now come back to find out that as we look at words, the origin of words, and the power that is intrinsic in words, there is great leadership wisdom in those words. Out of this recognition of the power present in words has surfaced this Power of Words series (the series of books Kevin is in the process of finalizing and preparing for public release).

I recently met with Dr. Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient, and we focused on the word resilient. Resilient means that we do not just get back up after being knocked down, but we actually harness that obstacle—whatever it is that knocked us down—and we leap back up from a new and stronger platform. When you examine the origin of resilient, the re amplifies and magnifies the true meaning, which is literally “to leap or jump back up after getting knocked down.” In The Power of Words for Leaders, I profile words that we throw around in our common leadership vocabulary. We use them in our vernacular as if we know them, as if they are just one-dimensional words sitting on a flat piece of paper when they are really three-dimensional words that carry profound power and wisdom.

When you realize that humility comes from humus, and that humus is "that rich, organic part of soil that allows for growth," you ask yourself, “Do I have sufficient humus, or humility? Do I allow others to grow and develop? Do I allow myself to grow and develop? Am I always developing and learning?” The answers to those questions will tell you a lot about your leadership capacity. Humility is what Jim Collins (in Good to Great) says separates great leaders from good leaders. The leadership capacity of someone with true humility is absolutely immense, because you cannot contain or restrain their personal growth or development.

Take another word: communication. The word communicate, or to commune. What is the origin of that word? It is often referred to as “dialogue”; or “talking and listening”; or “sending and receiving.” Those are a few of the things we have learned about it. But if you unpeel that onion, you come back to dirt again, just like a pathfinder comes back to dirt, just like humility comes back to dirt. Communication literally means to seek common ground, so if I want to lead, I need to seek out and find common ground. That is what Ray Freeman did for me. A lot of people die from the command and control model of leadership; sure there are times when it is appropriate in the heat of battle, but generally command and control is not going to work because you are not on common ground. As leaders, we can not be sitting up in an ivory tower, yelling out commands to have people go and get it done. That is poor management at best, but a leader, a pathfinder, needs to be on the ground if he or she is going to get it done.

Focus is a word that we frequently use: “Oh, they are not focused” or “they are focused.” The word focus comes from hearth. If you go back a few centuries ago, the hearth is where everything that was important or vital in a home took place. The warmth for the home started from the hearth, and the place to cook the meals to create the necessary nutrition came from the hearth, and the dialogue of meaningful events took place around the hearth. So the hearth became the focus for the home. Sometimes we tell someone that they need to be focused. We do need to get clarity of focus, but what is at the heart of the matter? What is at the hearth of your motivation? When leaders can identify what that focus is, whether it is a mission statement or a project or priority, it just means so much more. It is interesting if you look at an American Quilt. Right in the center of an American Quilt is a heart, which represents the hearth of the home; then there will be light on one side of the quilt and dark on the other side. In homes sometimes there is a lot of light that comes in and, unfortunately, sometimes there is some darkness that creeps in that we take with us as we try to move forward. That is why holding a lantern to light your brother or sister’s pathway is so vital. It is imperative that leaders develop clarity of path, purpose and passion and ultimately discover what is most important to their journey. Ram Charan suggests that you focus on only three or four vital priorities at a time. You sit around a hearth to discuss and act on those three or four things that were most meaningful and vital to that day in your life.

Another word I really like is inspire. Would you rather follow a manager or an inspired leader? It is a pretty easy question to answer: We all want to be inspired. Inspire comes from “spirit or breath.” So if you inspire someone, you breathe life into them or their dreams. That is what Stephen Covey has just written about in the 8th Habit: empowering others and helping them create a legacy in their lives. When you expire, you cease to breathe; when you inspire, you breathe life. When we quit breathing and quit dreaming, we expire, and sometimes people do that while they are still alive.

When I think of Ray Freeman, I think of a word that I learned when I was in Vienna last year. I was visiting with Viktor Frankl’s widow, Elly, and visited with her son-in-law Franz and two grandchildren, Alexander and Katharina and spent four days there with a delegation on the Statute of Responsibility Foundation project. I met a man by the name of Pravin Cherkoori on my last night in Vienna. He is a world renowned artist, who had personally known or met Viktor, Mother Teresa and members of Gandhi's family. We went to dinner that night, and he taught me a word that he learned in India, probably the most ancient word that I have ever studied, a word that I will never forget, the word is called geishin. He said, “In the West you might call this charity.” He was brought up in the East on and around the streets of Calcutta, and his parents said, “We are going to teach you how to practice geishin.” Geishin means that “you would never look at, or touch, or address, or treat another person in a manner to make them feel small.” At dinner, he said that at the moment when he passed a beggar on the street laying in the gutter, his mother’s words would ring in his mind: How you give the beggar that coin, how you give him or her that sustenance determines if you really understand and practice geishin. He said, “When I would reach into my pocket that coin became love. I would step down off the curb and kneel and look him in the eye, and share my love with my brother as I placed that coin in his hand.” True practitioners of geishin realize that we are all from the same human family.

The word body, a word from The Power of Words for Healing and Health, comes from like. I can give you thirteen languages interpreted and go to the very origin. It is interesting that sometimes we like someone because they are like us. We like someone because your nose is like mine, your hair is like mine, or your gender is like mine, and we develop all these –isms such as genderism, racism, religionism, etc. The -isms creep in because someone is not quite like me, but when you boil it all down, we need to practice geishin and never treat people in a manner to make them feel small. We are all ultimately from the same human family. Great leaders effectively practice that.

Integrity is another word. Integrity is just simply “complete.” What is an integral number? It is a whole number. If you have integrity, you are complete. What you say is not 7/8 or 3/4; it is not a fraction, it is 1. So you can really evaluate it: It is honesty, character, and all of those things, but at the core it just means “whole or complete.” That is the challenge as a leader: being balanced and whole and complete as well as doing what you mean and meaning what you do.

Words really are the way in which leaders can shape their world and their reality. There is nothing more powerful than words.

About Kevin Hall

Author, Speaker, Consultant & Chairman of the Statue of Responsibility Project

Home: Orange County, California

Family: Kevin and his wife Sherry have six children and two grandchildren

Current personal passion: Human development. Specifically, presenting the question: how can we live our personal passion? I remember when Joseph Campbell was interviewed by Bill Moyers and said, “Follow your bliss.” That is what The Power of Words for Leaders is about: You can not really lead others until you can lead yourself. The very first thing that I challenge people to do in the book is to find out what their purpose is, what their God-given abilities are, and then what they are passionate about. Then, I tell them to follow that bliss; when they do it as a true pathfinder, they will find everything on the path, just as Joseph Campbell said. In actuality, everything is already on that path, they just did not see it there before. You will meet people, if you follow your bliss, who will open doors for you. Doors have opened time and time again for me as I have worked on The Power of Words.

Dream: To see the Statue of Responsibility built and dedicated on the West Coast of the United States by 2013, and to have people all over the world develop a clear vision of their responsibility to reach out and help one another find and walk their own unique path in life.

Place in the world you most like to visit: China and India right now. Before I finish The Power of Words for Healing and Health, I would like to live on the streets in Calcutta for a week; it does sound a little dangerous and my wife is not real keen on the idea. The world is changing and what is coming out of India and China is phenomenal.

Favorite quotation: He who holds a lantern to light the pathway of his brothers, sees more clearly his own. I must confess that in helping others I gain wisdom, strength and courage.— Antoine R. Ivins

Favorite book: For an hour-and-a-half read (if you just read the first 112 pages), read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. If you want to give yourself the greatest gift, buy yourself that book and read it. Frankl creates a theory that we can live with any how if we have enough reasons why. During his several years in concentration camps, it was the love of someone else that got him through. Stephen Covey has mentioned to me that he called Viktor Frankl when Viktor was in the hospital at the end of his life and said, “Your thinking, your writing, your life has had such a profound impact on my writing and work.” When one of the great leadership writers of the last twenty years makes that statement, it really demonstrates the value of Viktor's work. Viktor had a vision; the words wisdom and vision are very closely linked. Wisdom derives from the old Germanic word wissen which means, “I know what I saw.” Sometimes we have got to make sure we know what we saw and learn from it. We need to repeat the same experiences from the past when they were good but not repeat them if they were not. Vision derives from vissen: It is another sight word. It means “I know what I see.” Great leaders see things that those around them sometimes do not see, and they see them so clearly that they see them before they ever happen and manifest. Stephen calls that “beginning with the end in mind.” You have to see it first in your mind because everything is created in the mind before it is created physically. While in the concentration camp, Viktor actually saw himself at one point speaking in a very professional setting at a university with people dressed in professional attire. Once he was released, that literally happened on dozens--if not hundreds--of occasions. But you have to see it first; we can live with any how if we have enough reasons why.

Man's Search for Meaning

There is one other book that I read when I was just nineteen years old: It really got me on the human development path. It is called I Dare You by William Danforth (the founder of the Ralston Purina Company and the American Youth Foundation). He was probably the first person to ever talk about being balanced. He talked about being a well-rounded square physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, and then he wrapped that whole square with service. It is a classic book on setting goals in a balanced way in your life. I read it every year, and I give it as a gift often. It is required reading for all of my children.

I Dare You

Ray Freeman, Kevin’s Scout leader when Kevin was a child--and the man Kevin credits as being his first pathfinder--shares this thought about Kevin: "Kevin was a really nice kid. He was enthusiastic and did the things he was asked to do. He was a born leader and showed it in Scouts while he was growing up."

Alice Elliot, founder and CEO of The Elliot Group, shares the following about Kevin Hall, "The amazing thing about Kevin Hall is that he is completely self made. He is humble and not afraid of hard work. His life’s craft has been people. He has never lost sight of his core values and his commitment to placing others first. Throughout his life and career, he has always sought out an arena in which he can inspire others. His upcoming book The Power of Words for Leaders is about helping people be the best that they can be. As a businessman, Kevin can relate to the challenges and opportunities of business. Kevin actively helps others excel professionally and has the practical experience of applying leadership principles to the everyday situations executives face. His actions embody the 'pay it forward' concept as he has helped people get more meaning in their lives."

Hyrum Smith, co-founder and former Vice Chairman of the Board for FranklinCovey, shares his thoughts on Kevin Hall, "Kevin has the natural instincts and is one of the best natural leaders I’ve ever seen. He loves his people, and he does everything in his power to help them succeed. He ran my sales organization for a couple years, and he was absolutely fantastic."

Click here to read Kevin Hall's bio.

Kevin Hall and Leadership

Books recommended for aspiring leaders: I happen to like Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover your Strengths because we all have strengths, and sometimes we are so focused on our weaknesses. One of the other words I have in The Power of Words is recognition. Recognition means "to know again." I think we sometimes should reevaluate what our strengths are and know ourselves again and focus on that. There is an Old Testament proverb that describes being “wrapped in a garment of praise." We are really good in this country of having appraisal processes and what do we always focus on? We focus on the weaknesses, the areas that need improvement. We need to have a praise process where we celebrate our natural strengths and gifts. Yes, we all need to improve, but we would leverage so much more if we would just zero in on what people’s God-given abilities are. We need to focus on people's natural strengths and put them in a situation where they can use those extremely well. Gene Siskel, the Chicago Tribune movie critic, was a friend. One of the very first things he ever said to me was “a talent wasted is a sin.” What a strong statement! What did Gene love to do? He loved the cinema, and he loved to watch movies. It became his life’s passion. For aspiring leaders, Now, Discover Your Strengths is great because when you focus on what you are good at, you are going to do a whole lot better, and you are going to be passionate about it. I always hear people say, “I will hire people for their passion, much more than for their skills or their experience." The word passion means "to suffer." If you have compassion, you suffer with someone. When I spoke at Johnson and Wales University in Denver recently, there were the magic questions: How do you find your purpose in life? How do you find your passion? I told the audience if you would still do what you are doing for free, then it is probably a passion. It is even better if you can make money living and pursuing your passion. Some people misunderstand that concept and think that if you are passionate about what you are doing, it is probably going to be really easy. That is seldom ever the case. If you are willing to suffer for something you love to do, you are likely following your passion and you will eventually discover your path in life. In addition to Buckingham's work, I love John Maxwell, whose leadership books are phenomenal. Of course, Stephen Covey’s work on principles and habits is foundational for leadership and human development. Deepak Chopra is another of the great writers and thinkers. Many of his books resonate with me on more of a cellular or spiritual level. He believes many of the same things that I do about purpose and passion. I want my children to find out what their passion is, find out what their purpose is, and find out what their bliss is. If they do that, the living takes care of itself. If my children could just do that, I would feel a success as a father.

How do you help people--specifically children--discover their passion? I recently spent a few days with Marva Collins, founder of the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago. She shared with me how many of the tests and assessments that we use right now in the school system do not accurately measure potential and unique strengths. Marva's theory is that it is not capacity that allows some people to succeed, it is exposure. People just need to be exposed to tools and opportunities. I started setting goals with my children when they were five or six years old. We should let people write down—even at a very young age—exactly what it is that they want. By setting goals, you teach people that they are really in control of their lives. If you start that when they are young, it will change their lives. Once the goal setting and exposure is supplemented with a focus on people's strengths, they are well on their way to success.

Most admired leaders: Gandhi, who said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Mother Teresa, who said, "You can not do great things. You can only do little things with great love." She said that she could not change the world overnight. She could not impact everyone on this planet. But she said she could find one person, and one need, and she could start right there. She lived her life that way, and she literally changed the world for the better.

Traits most important in a leader: Humility has got to be #1. If you had to bookend humility with something else, it would be being whole (balanced, complete, having integrity).

Advice for aspiring leaders: There are two things. First, find your purpose, identify your passion, and follow your bliss; if you do those things everything else will take care of itself. Second, give more than you take. I call it the Law of the Boomerang. What you throw out in life, you will get back. Most people in the human development field really get it because they have had people reach out to them. You cannot do this by yourself. Nobody can, and that is why you need leadership. We need to follow leaders and sometimes we need to lead followers. Find your own path, before you try to find path’s for other people. People say, “I want to be a leader.” It is not the corner office, the big title, and the big check. You better know where your path is, so you can help other people with their path. That is fundamental; then, it becomes less about you and more about those that are following you. Reach out to them and light their path.

What and where are the best training programs for leaders? Some of the stuff that is coming out of the Elliot Leadership Institute is tremendous. They are focused on creating the next generation of leaders for the hospitality industry, and were recently recognized as the “biggest story of the year." The Elliot Leadership Institute’s 10 Dimensions of Executive Leadership offer great value to leaders in all industries. Hyrum Smith and his partners at the Galileo Initiative are breaking new leadership ground with the Reality Model. Their expertise in helping leaders evaluate and change beliefs for permanent positive behavior change is second to none. Galileo also serves as a Strategic Training partner for the Elliot Leadership Institute. I also have high praise for Dr. Paul Stoltz and his partners at Peak Learning. I have watched Paul present his work on adversity and resilience, and I am personally convinced that he is the thought leader for turning adversity into opportunity. He is absolutely outstanding. Finally, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits is tremendous. In fact, Covey's 8th Habit may be in some ways better than 7 Habits. He is an inspiring teacher of true principles.

What is the toughest word for leaders to practice in their own leadership and lives? Humility; that is what separates a great organization from an average one. That is what separates a great leader from an average manager. It is very easy to say, “I learn, I develop, I grow, I have room for improvement.” But it is a second thing to do it. Great organizations and great leaders are always evolving. They are always learning new techniques. They are always trying to find best practices, so they can get better. There really is no finish line on continuous improvement or development. Some people say or feign humility, but it is a whole separate thing to do it. Viktor Frankl knew it because he lived it. Where there was no humanity, he found humanity in his years in concentration camps. He saw that humility, and even to the end of his life, he lived it. Viktor was well known in Europe because his book Man’s Search for Meaning—which he wrote in nine days—has been read by over ten million people and has influenced probably a hundred million people. Whenever Viktor would eat in a restaurant, he felt that it was appropriate—and this will tell you all you need to know about him as a leader who never sought to be a leader—to get up and clean up his own plate. He was so grateful to have food on the table and to have good service. So humility was such a strong characteristic of leaders like Viktor and also Gandhi. When you consider that Gandhi literally influenced tens of millions of Indians without government title or any political power, and he did it peacefully while practicing geishin, you are just amazed. He weaved and sewed scarves and other items of love for people who put him in prison. What a phenomenal leader! All the great ones have humility; it is not always evident, but they have it. Do they let others speak or do they do all the talking? Are they learning or do they expect everyone else to learn and get caught up to their speed?

A key initiative that Kevin is engaged in is the Statue of Responsibility project. Kevin is chairman of the project that is described in vivid and exciting detail at the Statue of Responsibility Foundation website. The following description of the project is taken from the website. The idea for the project comes from Viktor Frankl, the man who advanced the idea that to have freedom endure, liberty must be joined with responsibility. To that end, he proposed that the “Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” Several years before his death in 1997, James Newman, friend and colleague of Dr. Frankl and Founder/President of the PACE Organization, set up a committee of four individuals (Dr. Viktor Frankl from Vienna, Austria; James Newman from Studio City, California; Dr. Stephen R. Covey from Provo, Utah; Kevin L. Hall from Orange County, California) to see Dr. Frankl’s idea through to completion. The Freedom Equation is incomplete with Liberty alone. Liberty must co-exist with Responsibility to maintain Freedom. Liberty + Responsibility = Our Freedom. Freedom stands ready to endure as we embrace responsibility alongside of liberty. Individual responsibility, family responsibility, community responsibility, governmental responsibility, corporate responsibility, institutional responsibility – all these segments of society need a massive visual reminder of the role that responsibility plays in maintaining our freedom. What better country in the world to make this statement than the United States of America? America, who has fought for her own freedom by declaring our liberty from would-be oppressors. What better time than now, as creeping, cancerous issues begin to fray even the edges of our own freedom. And what better bold and visual reminder than the 300 foot Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast of our country that will stand as a “bookend” companion to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast of our country! Kevin Hall speaks passionately about the Statue of Responsibility project and the human connectedness that the project represents. He notes that the concept of geishin lends itself to the Statue of Responsibility project because it is two hands coming together and our responsibility to really help one another out.

Where to Go for More About Kevin Hall