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Leadership excellence : the seven sides of leadership for the 21st century--updated edition / Pat Williams with Jim Denney ; forewords by Coach Bobby Bowden & General Tommy Franks.

Williams, Pat, 1940- (author.). Denney, Jim, 1953- (author.). Bowden, Bobby, (author of foreword.). Franks, Tommy, 1945- (author of foreword.).
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Waterloo-Grant Twp PL - Waterloo 158.4 WIL (Text) 30090000709647 Non-Fiction Available -

Record details

  • ISBN: 1634097912
  • ISBN: 9781634097918
  • Physical Description: 335 pages ; 22 cm
  • Publisher: Uhrichsville, Ohio : Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2016.

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 325-335).
Subject: Leadership.

Leadership Excellence

By Pat Williams, Jim Denney

Barbour Publishing, Inc

Copyright © 2016 Pat Williams
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63409-791-8


Foreword: Leadership Lessons That Ring True, by Bobby Bowden, former head football coach, Florida State University,
Foreword: Here's Your Assignment, by Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Army (Retired),
Introduction: They Just Led,
1. The First Side of Leadership: Vision,
2. The Second Side of Leadership: Communication,
3. The Third Side of Leadership: People Skills,
4. The Fourth Side of Leadership: Character,
5. The Fifth Side of Leadership: Competence,
6. The Sixth Side of Leadership: Boldness,
7. The Seventh Side of Leadership: A Serving Heart,
Epilogue: A Leader Who Has It All,
Contact the Author,



On Sunday, January 9, 2011, I took part in the eighteenth running of the Walt Disney World Marathon — the fifty-eighth marathon of my fifteen-year marathon career. Two days earlier, at my yearly physical, my doctor had given me a clean bill of health, and I felt fine throughout the run. Afterward, I experienced the usual post-marathon soreness in my limbs — nothing out of the ordinary.

Monday and Tuesday, I felt fine. But Wednesday morning, I woke up with my back screaming in pain. Something was horribly wrong — and the pain seemed to radiate from my spine.

Soon I was back in my doctor's office. After running a few tests, Dr. Vince Wilson sat me down for a serious talk. "We have a problem," he said.

"Well, I knew I had a problem the moment I felt that pain," I chuckled. "But how bad could it be? A ruptured disk? A compression fracture? Arthritis?" Dr. Wilson frowned. "Pat," he said, "look at my face and listen to what I'm telling you. We have a problem. We found an abnormal protein in your blood work."

I didn't have a clue what "an abnormal protein" meant, but he suddenly had my full attention. I listened and he proceeded to tell me about something called multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in my bone marrow. "We aren't certain yet," he said, "but we think that's what your blood tests are telling us. I'm going to refer you to one of the top oncologists and hematologists in the nation, Dr. Robert B. Reynolds."

A few days later, I went to see Dr. Reynolds. He confirmed the diagnosis and explained to me that while multiple myeloma is not curable, it is treatable. The goal is remission. I later found out that Mel Stottlemyre, the longtime Yankees pitcher, and Don Baylor, the former American League power hitter, are both in remission with this same disease. With chemotherapy, Dr. Reynolds said, I had a 70 to 75 percent chance of remission.

"Well, Doc," I said, "I like those odds." Then an inspiration hit me. "Hey, I've got a great motivational slogan for my treatment: 'The Mission is Remission!'" "I like it," Dr. Reynolds said. "You've got a number of factors in your favor. Number one, your optimism and positive attitude — that's important. Number two, your good fitness level. Number three, your strong faith in God. Number four, the love of your family. Number five, the support of your team and the entire Magic organization."

"What's our next move?"

"We'll start chemo and move as fast as we can."

"I like an aggressive doctor. Let's get going!"

So I began chemotherapy — two treatments a week for two weeks, then a week off. The worst side effect was fatigue, but I could tolerate that. I continued my regular work, travel, speaking, and writing schedule, as well as my daily stint on the exercise bike, but I had to discontinue my heavy workouts — no more weight lifting or marathon training. It was a huge blessing that I could keep working, because work is therapeutic. If I couldn't have kept that up, I would have been sitting around thinking about cancer and chemo, and that's no way to live.

Over the next few days, I wondered: Whom should I tell? What should I say to my nineteen children? (Yes, nineteen children — four biological, fourteen adopted, and one by remarriage.) Should I keep my diagnosis private or make a public announcement? I knew if the news somehow leaked out, the information would not be under my control and would probably become distorted.

My doctor agreed that I should tell my family first, and then the public. "My counsel," he said, "is that you gather the media and tell them all at once."

I conferred with Joel Glass, the Orlando Magic's media director, and we scheduled a press conference for February. Dr. Reynolds was at my side throughout the briefing, and he gave the reporters a clear, concise explanation of what this illness is, how it is treated, and what the treatment goals would be.

"It's a very treatable disease," he told the reporters, "but it's not yet a curable disease. That's what we're striving for."

At the conclusion of the press conference, I removed my blazer and revealed a Magic-blue T-shirt. Lettered across the front was my motivational slogan: "The Mission Is Remission."


Immediately after the press conference, I was flooded with e-mails, letters, cards, and phone calls from friends and well-wishers. I heard from people I had known from my school days, playing days, and throughout my NBA career. I heard from people who had read my books or heard me speak. Every note and card was touching and life-affirming. I read each one, and I was overwhelmed by the good wishes and prayers.

For most of my life, I've tried to live by faith. Well, now it was time to put my faith into action. I can talk about faith in God all I want, but it takes a crisis like multiple myeloma to find out if my faith is real or not. In times like these, you can either get mad at God and withdraw into a shell of self-pity, or you can run to God and cling to him for all you're worth. Well, ever since I heard the words multiple myeloma from my doctor, I've been sitting in God's lap and seeking his will.

I've always felt that there was going to be another chapter in my life — an encore, a grand finale to all my years in baseball, basketball, team-building, promoting, speaking, and writing. I didn't know how it would play out, but I had a sense that something was coming. I think this is it.

Soon after I was diagnosed, I came across a great quote by an unknown author: "What may seem upside down to us is right-side up to God." I believe that's true. I don't want to have cancer, and I wish it were possible to make it go away. But at the same time, I think God has a new adventure for me — even a new leadership role — at this stage in my life.

For years, I've delivered motivational speeches to teams, corporations, organizations, church groups, and youth groups. One of my recurring themes has been, "Don't give up! Be bold! Be courageous! Have faith! Persevere!" Now, I get to live out all the great truths I always talk about, and that is a great privilege.

As I write these words, I'm more than 5 years into this journey. Yet I can already see so many good things coming out of this experience. I'm thankful that God has allowed this to happen. It's going to change my life. In fact, it has already changed my life. I've told God that I want him to use me, and I will do whatever he wants. I'll be bolder in speaking out for what truly matters in life. I'll become a spokesman for cancer research and for men's health. And none of this would have happened if not for this thing called multiple myeloma.

One of my pastors said, "Pat, God could have stopped this from happening, but he let it take place. He's got a plan to use this cancer and bring some good out of it." I don't want to miss the good things to come. I'm going to stay on the path he puts me on, and no matter where this path leads, I know I'll look back and be grateful.

I recently heard about a woman who received the same diagnosis I have. She has decided she doesn't want to battle the disease. She doesn't want to go through chemo. She's chosen to surrender to the cancer. When I heard her story, I asked, "Why is she giving up? Why doesn't she fight it?" The answer: "Pat, she doesn't have all the things to live for that you have. She doesn't have a mission in life. She doesn't have a vision for the future. She's tired, and she wants to let go."

And you know what? She has that right. I won't criticize her choice. Everyone has to choose his or her own path.

But I'm so grateful to have this mission before me — and the mission is remission! You might even say that the vision is remission, too. It doesn't rhyme quite as well, but it's just as true. My vision for the future is remission, and that vision powers my mission.

What's more, I believe that this vision is also powering my remission. When the day came that Dr. Reynolds told me, "Pat, your cancer is in remission," I gave credit to God, to my doctors, and to my vision of a new life — a life with an exciting new cause to live for, a life with a whole new dimension of leadership excellence to shout about to the world.

This vision of remission has captured my heart and soul, and I'm encouraging others for all I'm worth.


Leadership is about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.

Men and women of vision are people who have trained themselves to look over the horizon, to see what doesn't yet exist, to see things others can't see. Visionary leaders see earlier than others, farther than others, and more than others. Then they assemble teams of followers who catch that vision and hammer those dreams into reality.

A visionary leader can look at a plot of bare land and see a building already built. A visionary leader can look at an empty street and envision a victory parade. A visionary leader can look up at the night sky and see human habitats planted on the soil of distant planets. A leader starts with a vision and then works backward from that vision, figuring out each step it will take to turn that vision into a reality.

Vision has always been a prime ingredient of leadership excellence, and it always will be. General Colin Powell put it this way: "I don't know that leadership in the twenty-first century will be essentially different from the leadership shown by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and their colleagues two hundred years ago. Leadership will always require people who have a vision of where they wish to take 'the led.' Leadership will always require people who are able to organize the effort of others to accomplish the objectives that flow from the vision."

One of the greatest leaders of the ancient world was the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great, who lived almost six hundred years before Christ. He founded the first Persian Empire. Under Cyrus, Persian rule extended from the Mediterranean in the west to the Indus River in the East — the largest empire in history up to that time. Unlike most empire builders of the ancient world, Cyrus was not primarily a military conqueror. He was a genuine leader — a visionary, not a tyrant. In their book Power Ambition Glory, Steve Forbes and John Prevas explain the secret of Cyrus's greatness:

What set [Cyrus the Great] apart from other leaders of his time were his extraordinary vision and his willingness to build an empire based on tolerance and inclusion of other cultures. With Cyrus, leadership was more than just conquest; it included vision. Even in his early years as a nomadic tribal chief, he was able to see beyond the parched deserts of Iran and recognize the potential of an empire situated at the crossroads of the lucrative trade routes that ran between China and the West. Then he went out and built it.

The moment I read about Cyrus the Great and his vision for an empire situated around lucrative trade routes, I thought of Sam Walton and his Walmart empire. Walton was truly the Cyrus the Great of retailing. In the 1950s, he bought a shiny little Ercoupe 415-C two-passenger airplane and flew it around the country to scout locations for new discount stores. Sam's brother Bud, a former navy pilot who had taken off from carrier decks during World War II, said he was afraid to fly in Sam's little airplane. "It had a washing machine motor in it," Bud recalled, "and it would putt-putt, and then miss a lick, then putt-putt again."

But that little airplane was indispensable to Sam Walton's vision for his Walmart empire. Like Cyrus the Great, he recognized the potential of situating his empire at the crossroads of lucrative trade routes. From the air, Walton could scout out the vacant properties at the intersections of busy roadways, and he could envision his stores rising up from the ground to become retail meccas, attracting vast crowds of bargain-hungry shoppers. Sam later wrote in his autobiography, Made in America:

From up in the air we could check out traffic flows, see which way cities and towns were growing, and evaluate the location of competition — if there was any.

I'd get down low, turn my plane up on its side, and fly right over a town. ... Until we had 500 stores, or at least 400 or so, I kept up with every real estate deal we made and got to view most locations [from the air] before we signed any kind of commitment.

The vision principle of leadership is exactly the same today as it was in the ancient world, centuries before Christ. No matter what kind of empire you wish to build, you must begin with a vision.

Vision produces three vital effects in the life of a leader:

First, vision keeps you focused. It wards off distractions. It keeps you from wandering down rabbit trails. Your vision of the future keeps you on the main highway to your goals. Leadership guru John Maxwell puts it this way: "Vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws [the leader] forward."

In December 2015, I visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It features a fascinating museum with a replica of the 1903 flyer the Wright Brothers built, plus reproductions of their camp buildings. I climbed Big Kill Devil Hill and stood on the spot where the first powered manned flight took place.

On the wall of the museum are these words of Orville Wright: "I got more thrill out of flying before I had ever been in the air at all while lying in bed thinking how exciting it would be to fly." That is a profound statement of vision.

The Wright Brothers faced serious competition in the race to achieve powered manned flight. Their top competitor was a scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley. He received funding from the War Department and the Smithsonian Institution totaling $100,000, the equivalent of millions in today's dollars. He spent eighteen years and tried dozens of designs, all without success.

Langley's last prototype was launched in Washington, DC, on December 9, 1903 — but the tail assembly broke apart in midair, and the vehicle crashed in the icy Potomac, nearly drowning the test pilot. Eight days later, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully lifted their airplane off the ground at Kitty Hawk. Total cost: a mere $1,000 — their own money from the proceeds of their Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop.

Samuel Pierpont Langley's only vision was to build an invention that would make him rich and famous. But the Wright Brothers didn't dream of wealth and fame. They dreamed of soaring in the sky. They had a vision of the adventure of flying. That's why they succeeded on a shoestring where the lavishly-funded Samuel Langley failed.

The Wright brothers had a vision for humanity's thrilling future in air travel. Their vision kept them intensely focused on all the different problems that had to be overcome in order to build the first airplane. Biographer Mark Eppler describes how Orville Wright's vision kept him focused on solving the problems of heavier-than-air flight:

One morning, while working on their flyer in Kitty Hawk, Orville announced that during the night he had solved a problem regarding the control of their machine. "I was lying awake last night," Orville said, "and I studied out a new vertical, movable rudder to replace the fixed rudder we have used." Orville's ability to visualize a solution would be a key component of the brothers' eventual success. ... Many experts on the Wright brothers feel that their ability to "see" things in their heads before they tangibly existed was one of their greatest assets.

That ability Orville Wright described is called vision.

Sometimes the future is clouded by today's turbulent events. But even when we cannot see very far ahead, our vision keeps us focused on the way we should go. Novelist E. L. Doctorow puts it this way: "It's like driving a car at night. You never see farther than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Tom Landry, the late, great Dallas Cowboys coach, was known for using the "vision of the headlights" approach to the game of football. He always had a vision for winning that kept him focused on the path to victory. When his team was playing in the first quarter, he wasn't thinking about the fourth quarter. He kept his focus on what he wanted to accomplish in the next few plays. He once said: "I don't see the game the way the fans do. I'm one play ahead all the time. While the team is running one play, I'm looking ahead, planning the next one. I suppose that's why I don't react to a play the way the fans do."

Leaders of excellence are leaders of vision. Their vision keeps them focused on what they must do to succeed.

Second, vision keeps you fueled. It gives you energy, passion, and enthusiasm for the challenges you face. Energy, passion, and enthusiasm are the most contagious of all human qualities. If you want to measure the temperature of an organization, just stick a thermometer in the mouth of the leader. If he's on fire, the organization will be on fire. If he's a cold fish, the organization is a dead duck.


Excerpted from Leadership Excellence by Pat Williams, Jim Denney. Copyright © 2016 Pat Williams. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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