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USC President Shares Leadership Lesson

Steve Sample is the president of the University of Southern California. In his book, The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, Sample shares a leadership lesson he learned early in his career.

One of my earliest introductions to real leadership occurred in 1971, when I was named (at the tender age of thirty) to be deputy director for academic affairs of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. There I learned a great deal from the board's chairman, George Clements, who had made a name for himself as the man who built the Chicago-based Jewel Tea Company into a major national grocery chain.

When I first arrived at my post, Mr. Clements said, "Steve, let me give you some basic advice about leadership. You should spend a small amount of your time hiring your direct reports, evaluating them, exhorting them, setting their compensation, praising them, kicking their butts and, when necessary, firing them. When you add all that up, it should come out to about 10 percent of your time. For the remaining 90 percent of your time you should be doing everything you can to help your direct reports succeed. You should be the first assistant to the people who work for you."

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