Podcast #227 – Ruthie Davis & Steve Cook on “Do The Right Thing”


Joining me for episode #227 are Ruthie Davis and Stephen Cook, talking about the book that they edited, Do the Right Thing: Real Life Stories of Leaders Facing Tough Choices.

While this episode isn't focused on Lean, per se, I think you'll enjoy the discussion and I highly recommend the book, which highlights the role of ethics and integrity in leadership… hence “doing the right thing” and being a great leader who others chose to follow.

Don Davis

The book is inspired by the life and lessons of Don Davis, who served as CEO of Stanley Works (now Stanley Black & Decker) from 1966 to 1988. After retiring as CEO, Don volunteered to teach a leadership seminar for the MIT Leaders for Global Operations program, which I was fortunate to take as a student there. You can read his obituary here.

Ruthie is Don's daughter and Steve was, like me, a student of Don's at MIT, so they combined their efforts to publish a compilation of compelling stories from Don's students about real life leadership challenges that they faced and how Don's “leadership mantras helped them in those times.

Stephen Cook is currently a co-founder and Executive Managing Director of the private equity firm, LFM Capital. Previously, he was a Principal with TVV Capital, following his role as COO of MFG.com, and 11 years of operations leadership roles at Dell. Prior to joining Dell, Steve served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, where he flew combat missions in support of Desert Shield. He is a fellow graduate of the MIT Leaders for Global Operations program, a year ahead of me, and we worked together at Dell at the turn of the century and have kept in touch since. Read his bio.

Ruthie Davis is an entrepreneur and designer, the founder and CEO of the high-fashion Ruthie Davis shoes. Her shoes are a “top choice of celebrities and fashion tastemakers including… Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Lopez; Halle Berry, Sofia Vergara, Taraji P. Henson and Shailene Woodley… and Emma Roberts, Zendaya Coleman, and Rumer Willis.” Ruthie was a recipient of Babson College's “Entrepreneur Hall of Fame” award in 2015. Read her full bio here.

Streaming Player (Run Time 41:26)

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In the podcast, we discuss topics including:

  • An overview of Don's life, career, and approach to leadership (what he practiced at work, taught in the classroom, and taught at home)
  • Which of Don's mantras are most timeless or most relevant to Ruthie and Steve today?
  • What are Steve's recollections of  Don's leadership the lessons he learned there?
  • Why “leadership is stewardship” and “self-ship is the enemy of leadership”
  • How the leadership mantras are all integrated as a system
  • Why it's important to take time to make important decisions and that doing the right (correct) thing is better than doing the fast thing
  • How “leadership does not take a size or a shape or a form”

For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/227.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher.

Video and Audio of Don Davis:

A video made by MIT students about Don's leadership mantras that includes video of Don in the classroom.

Here is an excerpt of him talking about a few of his mantras:

Hearing Don talk about not dipping into your “bucket of power” very often, that power being a limited resource, reminds me of the Toyota expression, “Lead as if you have no power.”

Great leadership is great leadership.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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