Monday, May 13, 2024


Last fall, I featured an inspiring series here on my blog called, "Fall Back to Reading Series." Nearly 30 leadership, marketing, and customer experience experts participated and shared their favorite books and their thoughts about the importance of reading.

Joseph Lalonde, one participant, wrote a book entitled, REEL LEADERSHIP, which focuses on nontraditional ways to think about leadership. After I read the book, the seeds for this "Spring Leadership Series" were planted. Today, I’d like to introduce Kathi Kruse, and following a brief introduction, Kathi shares some nontraditional ways to think about leadership!

Kathi Kruse is a retail car gal, dealership profitability expert, social media strategist, coach, trainer, author of Kruse Control Newsletter, co-host of The First Pencil podcast, and founder of Kruse Control, Inc. and AutoCFO To Go. She is a board member of Hanaeleh Horse Rescue, and ten percent of Kruse Control profits go toward animal welfare.

QUESTION: Which TV show or TV series showcases leadership in a memorable way? This could be due to a specific character and their actions, a series of events, the plot of one or several episodes, or a specific time reflected in history.
KATHI KRUSE: THE SOPRANOS, a truly iconic TV series (that I loved from the first episode) and specifically Tony Soprano, the mob boss. Here are the show's leadership lessons:

(1) Strategic Thinking: Tony often displays a keen understanding of the bigger picture and the ability to plan several steps ahead.

(2) Decisiveness: Tony is known for making tough decisions quickly, a crucial trait for a leader in his position.

(3) Loyalty: Tony values loyalty highly, both in himself and in his associates. He often rewards loyalty and takes betrayal very personally.

(4) Adaptability: Throughout the series, Tony shows an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, whether it's dealing with internal family dynamics (both his own family and the mob family) or external threats.

(5) Charisma: Despite his flaws, Tony possesses a certain charisma that draws people to him and commands respect.

(6) Toughness: Tony demonstrates mental and physical toughness, a necessary quality for survival in his world.

(7) Intelligence: Tony is often portrayed as being highly intelligent, able to outmaneuver his opponents and navigate complex situations.

(8) Emotional Complexity: While this may not be a traditional leadership quality, Tony's depth of character and emotional struggles add a layer to his leadership style, showing a human side that contrasts with his often ruthless actions.

(9) Resourcefulness: Tony frequently finds creative solutions to problems that seem insurmountable.

(10) Influence: Tony has a significant influence over his crew and associates, often guiding their actions and decisions.

QUESTION: Which film showcases leadership in a memorable way?
KATHI KRUSE: SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993): A powerful depiction of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party, who is credited with saving the lives of over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. The film is set during World War II and primarily takes place in Kraków, Poland, which was occupied by the Nazis.

Key aspects of the film's depiction of Schindler's leadership:

(1) Schindler's Transformation: The film depicts Schindler's transformation from a profit-driven businessman to a humanitarian. Initially, he sees the war as an opportunity to profit by employing Jewish labor in his enamelware factory. However, as he witnesses the brutal treatment and systematic extermination of Jews, he becomes determined to save as many lives as possible.

(2) Tactical Maneuvering: Schindler's leadership is showcased by his ability to navigate the treacherous political landscape of Nazi-occupied Poland. He cultivates relationships with high-ranking Nazi officials, using bribery and charm to protect his Jewish workers.

(3) Moral Courage: The film highlights Schindler's growing moral courage. Despite the immense risks, he uses his factory as a refuge for Jews. His list becomes a lifeline for those included, sparing them from transportation to concentration camps.

(4) Emotional Depth: The emotional depth of the film is notable, and I believe emotional IQ is crucial to leadership. Schindler is portrayed as a complex character, flawed yet capable of extraordinary acts of kindness and bravery. His emotional journey is central to the narrative, which makes it a great example of memorable leadership.

QUESTION: Which product, or product line, stands out as a symbol of leadership?
KATHI KRUSE: PATAGONIA's products are amazing. When you buy one, the experience illustrates the brand's core values: quality, integrity, environmentailism, justice, and not being bound by convention.

QUESTION: Lastly, since I’m a marketing professional, I would be remiss not to ask this question. Which brand do you consider the best embodiment of an industry leader, and why?
KATHI KRUSE: COSTCO is a retail leader and provides a stellar example of how to treat employees and customers. In the retail sector (where I'm from), leadership is best represented by how you deliver an extraordinary experience. Costco's return policy is one example: "We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund." It's memorable, customers tell others about it, and when you need to return something, it's easy and effortless.

SHARE THIS: In the retail sector, leadership is best represented by how you deliver an extraordinary experience. ~@kathikruse #SpringLeadershipSeries #DebbieLaskeysBlog

Did these questions open your eyes to thinking about leadership in nontraditional ways? That was the hope. My gratitude to Kathi for appearing on my blog, and for sharing her leadership insights.

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey, iStockphoto, Amazon, and Classroom Clipart.

Connect with Kathi at these links:

Check out Kathi's previous appearances on my blog:

Why Podcasts Should Be Included in Your Marketing Strategy (August 2023)

Social Media’s Impact on Employee Engagement and Customer Experiences (October 2021)

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