Michael Kopko's 5 Principles for Success

I have heard George David speak on executive leadership on three different occasions. The first two were at public events at the New York Stock Exchange and at the Breakers in Palm


Beach Florida, and the third was at a breakfast we shared in New York. I have been mesmerized by George David because I know that if he ever asked me to join him I might part with everything I had to follow him. I feel this way about him because I know he is a great leader and an effective manager. I have not seen him around many employees though the next time I visit him he has told me he wants me to come to his head quarters in Hartford. Of all the managers I could think of I chose Mr. David as most effective because his philosophies on business, management, and leadership in general are pristine in their clarity and very effective for me personally. I think the clarity with which he speaks to his people and the power of these principles is very effective and explain how he has increased the value of United Technologies stock by $50 billion or more than 500% since his inception as CEO. I wanted to share 5 of Mr. David’s principles on leadership, though I have several more as I write about him after every time I meet him.He repeats these principles over and over again. I must warn that my recanting of these values cannot be as effec-tive as it is to hear him talk about them.

Principle #1:
On Crises and Bad News I think of Two Immutable Trends

Though I must pay attention to events that are happening around me I never become seriously concerned or consumed by doomsday calls or media obsession. I think of two trends that I know are immutable and unstoppable. The first is human productivity. We are becoming more produc-tive and more effective each day. We are more capable than we were a decade ago and we will be more capable in the next decade. Nothing will stop this. The second is globalization. We are increasingly becoming an integrated economy and will continue to work and trade more between nations. Nothing will stop this. So when bad news comes to me I certainly address it, but when I think long enough about it I inevitably result to these two themes and I become infinitely less panicked.

Principle #2:
I like to see the back of the head.

My favorite employees are those to whom I give a project, explain our requirements, they get a sense of the limits of our resources and then I see the back of their head for six months. I have a lot of employees who come to me asking my advice or trying to get my sign off on incremental steps to their end goal. I have to tell them, “I am too busy to handle your problems.” I think this is a critical difference between mediocre and great employees.

Principle #3
I am like water.

As the leader of our organization I get a lot of different pressures put on me and like water I ad-just to apply that pressure somewhere else. Many things fundamentally go through me but my primary job is to apply the pressure to our organization. Thus I cannot be broken or destroyed as I rarely absorb all the pressure myself. My task is to disperse it and apply it to our entire team.

Principle #4
I learn by osmosis and I ask tough question. (Mr. David was a physicist)

I learn by osmosis. And I say that to suggest that most of the things I learn are a result of my presence. When I sit in a meeting with our people I often know very little initially about the subject matter specifically. I know the broad themes and relevance but we are involved in so-phisticated technologies. I can’t possibly know it all but I know the things I surround myself with I will understand. When I sit in a meeting though, I focus on asking very touch questions, not the kind that try to catch anyone but the type that make me comfortable feeling that we fundamentally understand this stuff.

Principle #5:
I care how my people see me.

Mr. David gave this answer when I asked him what his reactions were to the flack he gets about his executive compensation.

I care much less about how the media sees me but I am obsessed with how our people see me. It is essential that they respect me as a leader and think I am best for the job.