A telecommunications leader and motivational writer shares his thoughts on leadership.
Robert E. “Bob” Knowling, Jr. grew to international fame as a corporate change agent in the telecommunications industry and as an innovative leader in education. His success story has been featured in Business Week, Forbes and Fortune among other publications.
Mr. Knowling’s career in telecommunications started in 1977 at Indiana Bell. He was chosen as the lead architect of the company’s transformation to Ameritech and was named Vice President of Network Operations in 1994. He later served as US West’s Executive Vice President of Operations and Technologies, responsible for a 30,000-member team serving more than 25 million customers, and as CEO of Covad Communications, SimDesk Technologies and Telwares.
This self-made entrepreneur is also very aware of the need to give back. Tapped by Michael Bloomberg, he pioneered the first New York City Leadership Academy which since its establishment has become one of the most successful programs of its kind in the United States. Mr. Knowling was instrumental in the development of the FIU Center for Leadership’s own Principals Leadership Development Program (PLDP) offered each year to Miami public school principals.
His acclamations include receiving the Wall Street Project’s Reginald Lewis Trailblazers Award from President Clinton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Mr. Knowling serves on the board of directors for many prestigious companies.
He currently serves as Chairman of Eagles Landing Partners, a firm specializing in helping senior management formulate strategy, lead organizational transformations, and re-engineer businesses, leadership development and executive coaching.
Mr. Knowling shares his wisdom at FIU’s Center for Leadership
Because he journeyed from being surrounded by crime, poverty, drug abuse and racism as a child to becoming a top business leader, it’s natural that the inspiring book Mr. Knowling authored is titled You Can Get There From Here: My Journey from Struggle to Success.
Recently, he shared stories of that struggle as well as his path to success when he spoke to students, faculty, alumni and visitors as part of The Leadership Lectures series at FIU’s Center for Leadership.
“No matter what your race, gender or family tree, you can choose to be successful,” he said. “There’s no place on this planet where opportunity abounds like it does in the United States.”
He also gave audience members this advice: “If you pick the wrong avenue, stop. Turn around and choose something different.”
This captivating speaker, whom Newsweek called “The Turnaround Leader of our Generation,” talked about the challenges in his life, pointing out how they became a reservoir of experience and strength from which he draws.
He emphasized the importance of having a higher power. “Faith is the root of my success,” he said adamantly.
Mr. Knowling also shared his insight on the keys to strong leadership:
An effective leader:
… establishes the vision. “You have to set a vision of success for the group you are in charge of, whether it’s a team of three or an entire company. An organization without a vision, without an aspiration, is certainly doomed to fail.”
? sets values. “Values are not just how you hope things will be. Rather, values are a specific set of behaviors established by the leader. These behaviors become the criteria by which we assess ourselves and by which we hire new people to join our team. Values are essential to be able to move ahead. In my own companies, if you violate the values, you go home.”
? creates the environment for others to succeed.“Leaders don’t do the work but create the environment for people to develop and work to their full potential.” Leaders don’t get in the way of others, Mr. Knowling pointed out. “If you do, you’re a meddler not a leader,” he said.
Mr. Knowling challenged each member of the audience to write down three specific goals that they wish to accomplish. “Put that list where you can see it every day,” he advised, adding that his list is posted on his car’s dashboard. “Success is always a choice, decisions you make, the path you choose. Make sure you’re always on the path to success.”