The Man from Yum & Thoughts on Leadership

novak_cornerGiving recognition is “the best way to build a high-energy, fun culture and reinforce the behaviors that drive results,” said David Novak, the chairman, CEO and president of Yum Brands (think — Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut). In the “Corner Office” piece appearing in The New York Times, Novak offers his thoughts on a variety of topics including leaders and hiring.

What makes the best leader?

I think the best leaders are really pattern thinkers. They want to get better. They’re avid learners. They soak up everything they can possibly soak up so that they can become the best possible leader they can be.

On action vs. activity:

What I’ve learned over time is to make sure that you’re focusing on action versus activity. A lot of times there are certain things you do almost out of ritual, like creating a report that everybody looks at. But when you really step away from it, it’s more activity than action. What I’ve learned is to make sure I spend time on the action that’s going to drive results.

On taking an interest in your workers:

You show you care by really taking an active interest in the people working for you, and you care enough to give them direct feedback. People are starved for direct feedback. People want to hear how they can do better. Too many leaders don’t provide that feedback. So if you take an active interest in someone, you take an active interest in sharing with them your perspective on what they can do to improve.

On hiring avid learners

Everybody is looking for ambition, passion, the ability to inspire. I think the thing that I have found in the highest-potential people, and the people who can have the most impact in your organization, is that they’re avid learners. Are they continually trying to better themselves? Are they continuing to look outside for ideas that will help them grow the business?
The complete interview is excellent and includes numerous insights and ponderables.


[Photo courtesy of David Lutman for The New York Times]

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