Monday, April 22, 2024

Reshaping Corporate Culture: Author/Leadership Expert Kyle McDowell and Begin With We


Tampa, FL–Kyle McDowell, who spent 30 years leading thousands at massive companies like UnitedHealth Group, General Dynamics Information Technology, and CVS Health, has released Begin With We: 10 Principles for Building and Sustaining a Culture of Excellence. The book delves into ten “WE”-based leadership principles designed to help leaders of all levels energize apathetic teams and foster greater trust, authenticity, and productivity.

McDowell reveals that his own struggles to connect with and motivate his teams inspired him to create a new leadership model for corporate America. One of the biggest hurdles he had to overcome, however, was self-awareness: he had to realize that his own style of leading was not working.

“I was the typical corporate leader in that I spoke softly and carried a big stick. I think many of today’s executives can relate to that,” McDowell says. “I checked all the boxes, met my individual performance goals given to me by my bosses, and climbed up the ladder. I was very much part of the ‘I vs. them’ mentality that said you had to keep a divide between you and your team in order to be successful. I followed the leadership rules and built a career that took me to the top, but it came at a price.”

In Begin With We, McDowell explains that the view at the top wasn’t quite what he had expected. There was a problem: his success had come at the expense of his team’s enjoyment of their jobs and even his own.

“I had everything that I thought I wanted, including the salary and fancy title,” he remembers. “But, when I looked around at my teams, instead of excitement on their faces, I saw cynicism and disillusionment. They felt disposable, and somewhat ironically, so did I. I knew there had to be a better way.”

His book details the personal journey that he undertook, starting with leaving the corporate fray, doing some soul-searching for the real meaning of leadership, and founding Kyle McDowell Inc. His mission, McDowell says, is to reinvent the leadership paradigm so that leaders can excite their teams and spark more innovation and productivity.

“First, I had to get real with myself and figure out the kind of leader I wanted to be. My biggest goal was to bring together leaders and their teams so that they could truly work together,” says McDowell. 

When speaking of the genesis of the principles and the impact it had on the 15,000-person organization he led at the time, McDowell recalls, “One night, it came to me: most teams have been led by bosses who focus more on their own success than truly investing energy into the growth, development, and success of those they lead. It was almost an experiment for me. Since I had never been led with principles and certainly not with a ‘WE-orientation,’ it was a gamble. But I was determined to get rid of that leadership gap and inspire rather than intimidate. And it worked! What happened next was a cultural transformation on a massive scale. The approach literally changed people’s lives.”

McDowell describes in his book that as he jotted down ideas on a pad of paper, one idea emerged: WE, the foundation for how leaders can create an environment that establishes accountability as well as a system of support. The more he thought about it, the faster the ideas came until he finally had the framework for a new era of business:

1. WE do the right thing. Always. 

2. WE lead by example. 

3. WE say what WE’re going to do. Then WE do it. 

4. WE take action. 

5. WE own our mistakes. 

6. WE pick each other up. 

7. WE measure ourselves by outcomes. Not activity. 

8. WE challenge each other. 

9. WE embrace challenge. 

10. WE obsess over details. 

“I sat back and thought, ‘What if we throw out everything we think we know about corporate leadership and erase that distance between leaders and teams?’” says McDowell. “What will teams across the country be able to do if they are truly inspired, feel valued, and have a greater connection with leaders? That’s a corporate culture I would be excited to work in.” It turns out, he was right. 

McDowell believed so deeply in The 10 WEs that he decided to put them in book form and make them more accessible to leaders around the world. He calls it his life’s purpose. Since its release, Begin With We has earned bestseller status from USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and peaked at #1 in nine different categories on Amazon. McDowell thinks his candid, anecdotal approach to helping readers to understand principle-based leadership appeals to people who value authenticity and relatability. “I didn’t just wake up with a $2B P/L. I started my career in a tiny cubicle at a regional bank. It was a long journey that would have been much easier to traverse if I’d had leaders who invested in me rather than seeing me as a number.”

“We all know that corporations are full of incredibly talented leaders whose teams are just as skilled and, at times, even more so,” says McDowell. “The reason, then, that people are so apathetic about their jobs and futures is we are not meant to have this leadership gap, even in companies with thousands of people. Humans are tribal. We are wired to work with one another. When we do, when we adopt a ‘WE’-leadership style, we establish a sense of relatability and trust that unlocks mountains of potential.”

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