When Dave Beckmann retired from Emerson Process Management as senior vice president, marketing in 2003, he knew he wanted to give something back to others. Part of that repayment occurred today at the 2008 Emerson Global Users Exchange, where he urged the capacity crowd to think differently and become the leaders who will steer the course to success.
“All of us are being impacted by what’s happening on Wall Street right now,” he said, just a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777 points in one trading day. “I remember a previous time when the banks began to fail, and my grandfather said, ‘Good. It’s about time those guys get their due.’ And a year later, he lost his carpentry business because of the trickle-down.”
“The ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” Dave Beckmann, retired Emerson marketing exec, stressed the importance of perspective in leadership creativity.
Beckmann persuaded the crowd to ponder whether a similar fate could await the process industries. Could they go the way of the investment banking and housing markets?
“Where’s the value-add in packaging loans?” asked Beckmann. “There’s no value-add there. It’s about time that the market gets corrected. I just hope it isn’t so traumatic that it pulls us down with it. I hope that as that market falls apart, we’ll still be standing. What will be the difference? What we do will still be needed. People will still need gas. People will still need the chemical products we provide. I think we will survive. How? Leadership.”
If you peel back the confident veneer of most leaders, you’ll find men and women who often lie sleepless in their beds at night tossing and turning with uncertainty, suggested Beckmann. “Questions without easy answers haunt them,” he declared. But those answers come in the form of ideas, which can be nurtured or die.
“Why do ideas die?” asked Beckmann. “Ideas die because we are not communicating them well enough. We need to think differently. You’re not what you think you are. But what you think—that’s who you are. And what is the thinking process that makes us different? It’s creativity.”
Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary, explained Beckmann. “Creativity is a matter of perspective. You have to use a different lens to see the problem. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. True leaders come up out of the ashes. In order to make the right decision, you have to make a few mistakes.”
Beckmann warned against becoming so wrapped up in one’s self that it becomes impossible to see what is going on around one. “The ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about,” he explained. “What is the factor limiting you from getting into upper management? Your performance? You didn’t go to the right school? Are you so valuable in your current position that you’re never going to move up because they can’t replace you? Is it the economy? It’s none of these. It’s your attitude. There isn’t anything that will limit your ability to move up in the ranks more than your attitude.”
Beckmann advised the crowd also to pay attention to what drives them to success. “If your driving force is money, you’ll never have enough,” he cautioned. “If your driving force is to be powerful, you’ll always wonder if someone is going to cut out your legs. If your driving force is to be seen as smart, you’ll feel stupid because you’ll always fear that you’ll make a mistake. Once you decide to think outside your own skill, there will be a world of opportunities, and creativity will flow as a fountain.”