Hugh McColl on Leadership – 9 Nuggets

Hugh McColl has been speaking on leadership for over 40 years, and it never gets old.  A few years ago he spoke at the Entrepreneurial Leadership Circle at Queens University, which hosted an evening with Mr. McColl, former CEO of Bank of America. His delivery was as wry, direct, and compelling as ever and worth reflection.

Here are Mr. McColl’s top takeaways on leadership:

  1. Why would anybody want to follow you?  Leaders inspire with a vision to take people where they can’t go by themselves. Leaders show their followers a better world and a vision to get there.
  2. There’s a contract between leaders and followers – it starts with trust.  This contract is based on a simple reciprocal agreement – one person will get the job done, and the other will judge performance and compensate it fairly. [Author’s note: for startups, this may mean sharing equity]
  3. Delegating is the first act of trust. No matter how smart you think you are, even if you can leap tall buildings, you can’t accomplish it all by yourself. If you want to be big, if you want more money, you have to share responsibility with others to make it happen.
  4. Lead by example. Don’t ask anyone to do something you haven’t done yourself.
  5. Take care of your troops.  People can tell when you are in their corner, and will go the extra mile for you.  They can also tell when you are not in their corner.
  6. High energy is the most important quality when hiring.  Most people are smart, but drive and energy are the common denominators of winners. When recruiting partners and teammates also look for self-starters, those with the courage of their convictions and people who care about other people, which will come through with customers and colleagues (and ties back to trust).
  7. No one gets appointed as leader.  Nature hates a vacuum, so if you see an opportunity, then stand up and say “Follow me” with a vision.
  8. Leaders must tolerate disagreement. Without it, communication and ideas are stifled. Leaders must be willing to listen and change their minds. However, if colleagues are disagreeing to undermine or prejudice others, then they must go.
  9. Put the money on people who score.  If you’ve got more talent than company, then take that as your challenge to grow to keep strong talent engaged in your company.

Hugh McCollWhen asked what he was most excited about regarding Charlotte’s future, Mr. McColl sited the new companies being formed here and moving here. He sees the spinoffs and brains pouring out of our big companies as a huge catalyst for opportunity in Charlotte. He’s also excited about the light rail connecting uptown to UNCC and of course, the new baseball field in city center.

Mr. McColl, thank you for your years of mentoring and inspiring us!


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2 Responses to Hugh McColl on Leadership – 9 Nuggets

  1. Eddy Velasco says:

    Thanks you for your summary/article/blog regarding Mr. McColl. He provided Queens’ Sailing Club with his “no longer being used” 21 foot sailboat back in ’91. I had a chance to speak with him a couple of times (the last time on the podium when he presented me with my MBA diploma) and I always felt a sense that he cared for the students and employees.
    Eddy Velasco, MBA ’92
    Clearwater, FL

    • startupcafe says:

      Eddy – thanks for your comment and personal story about Mr. McColl. I worked for him ages ago, and agree that he always exuded a deep sense of interest, caring and encouragement (behind the tough Marine facade). He once told us as new credit analysts, “The way to get ahead is to take as much responsibility as you can, do a good job, then ask for more.” I still remember that!

      Lori Collins

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