As a family owned business, we’ve had the opportunity to build a network of friends who have become colleagues and colleagues who have become friends. We are grateful and honored to have built and maintained close relationships with so many inspiring people within our local business community. This month, our Thought Leader Spotlight shines on one such person who has made a profound and lasting impact not only on MacKenzie Corporation, but the greater Orange County community as a whole.
Our involvement in the CSUF Center for Family Business has shown us the power of people who come together working toward a common goal, and it has also shown us how the passion and energy of one person can motivate and inspire others to be their best. Through this organization we met a special individual who commits their time, energy and focus toward fostering growth and development in others as they pursue their dreams. It is our honor and privilege to introduce the 2018 October Thought Leader Spotlight; Ed Hart.
Whether as a Professor or a foundation Director, so much of what you do is focused on supporting the growth and development of others. Did you always see yourself making a career investing in people? Or was this a path that revealed itself along the way?
It started for me when I was young. My Dad spent 39 years moving up the ranks to the top of the HR field at Beckman, a major medical instruments company (then in Fullerton, now in Brea), and my Mom worked for two decades as the Director of the Women’s Opportunities Center at UC Irvine. I was taught at an early age about the importance of people, and how everyone was created with a purpose, and some of us have just had better circumstances and opportunities than others. I saw it in my own circle of friends growing up. I have always known I was more people focused than process driven, so the jobs I have had that have been focused on developing people and companies have been the most rewarding for me.
Do you consider yourself a natural-born leader, or have leadership skills evolved over time and through experience? Maybe it’s a combination of both?
I think you are right…I think it is a combination of both for most people. We have all seen little kids who seem to lead their peers and the neighborhood kids, and others who step into leadership out of necessity, or late in life. To me, leadership is about loving people, investing in their success, providing examples, tools, and opportunities for them to grow, and then letting them learn by doing. Some of my greatest personal leadership role models throughout my life were people I just felt drawn to and following them was easy. If it is easy to follow someone, then they are probably a good leader. We are pulled by their charisma, their ability to listen, their decisiveness, and their desire to show us the way. In my career, some of the greatest leaders I have known were not even the formal leader of our team. Job titles do not reflect leadership and character…they reveal it. The greatest leaders in my life have never been motivated by job titles. They are motivated by influence.
I definitely feel great leadership can be learned but, that for some, it is a combination of “born with it” skills, early development, education, and passion for developing people. Most of us learn more by seeing and doing than we do by hearing. Once I experience something, and am a part of it, I am much more likely to learn how to do it.
Who has had the biggest impact on your life; either personally or professionally?
At the risk of being redundant, the simple and first answer to come to mind is my parents., “Jack and Elaine Hart” isn’t plural. It is singular. My parents would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this year, but my Mom passed away in early 2017. Their example of unity and love for us 5 kids, and our spouses, kids, and grandkids, as well as out to everyone around, has made the biggest impact in my life. My Mom always taught me and my four siblings to stand up for what we believe in. If we value something, or someone, prove it. Loyalty was huge to her. My Dad has been the best role model in my life of how to treat people. We always have said that if we heard him on the phone talking with someone, we would not be able to tell if he was talking with a company executive, a politician, a family member, a telemarketer, or the night crew that cleaned his office. He spoke (and at 91 years old still does) with everyone the same. He treats everyone with respect, dignity, love, and empathy. He truly cares about people. I hope that both of those lessons from my parents have rubbed off a little bit on me.
Professionally, I get to work with the leaders and families of about 60 family-owned companies, and hundreds of others. It’s remarkable to me how the leaders and owners I know who put family, faith, and service above company results are actually the ones who are achieving the greatest company results! Those closest to me have often heard me say that my favorite people to be around are those that “get it.” They just know how to treat people, they know how to truly prioritize their lives, and they have a certain rhythm to their lives that allows them to somehow get things done, but not at the expense of the relationships that matter most.
Part of the Hart Leadership Center’s mission is “to honor and recognize current business leaders.” How do you go about identifying and/or selecting business leaders to recognize?
Starting with the Family Business Hall of Fame we have hosted at CSUF since 2015, we have worked with companies and individuals around the region to hold other business leader Hall of Fame events. We get nominations from the business community, and then have a board or selection committee who eventually selects the inductees into these Hall of Fames we have created. We recently held our 2nd Black Business Leaders Hall of Fame, in partnership with our long-time friends at City National Bank. We sought nominations based on commitment to community and philanthropy, education, innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. Once we had gathered these nominations (over 150 great companies and leaders since 2016!), our committee voted, and we have inducted 15 great black businesses and leaders into the Black Business Leaders Hall of Fame. We are looking to do similar events in the Hispanic, Asian-American, Military-Owned, Women-Owned, and various other areas. Our goal is to recognize people and companies that are making a difference in their culture, community, and industry, and to simply honor them in ways that they are not currently being recognized. Proceeds from these events are then donated to schools, or programs in those specific areas that need it the most. We are driven by giving recognition where it is long overdue, and by supporting and creating educational opportunities that might not have otherwise existed.
Looking forward to 2019 and beyond, are there any Hart Leadership Foundation initiatives or events that have you particularly excited?
All of it! In my role at the Center for Family Business at CSUF we will continue to create high quality educational, professional and personal development, and business opportunities for our members. We will host our 5th Annual Family Business Hall of Fame in the Spring of 2019, where we will recognize 3 – 4 more family businesses for their accomplishments and vision.
At the Hart Leadership Center Foundation, we plan on hosting the 3rd Annual Black Business Leaders Hall of Fame, and most likely the inaugural Latino Business Leaders Hall of Fame here in Orange County. We are also planning a variety of retreats, conferences, “days of philanthropy”, and other special events. We are excited to respond to this call we feel we have…to bring light to the efforts, accomplishments, and vision of some amazing people and companies. Our future is very bright because we plan to shine a light on the leaders and difference makers all around us. We can all learn from their examples, and their efforts.
Do you have any advice for someone pursuing a leadership position?
I get to teach a Sports Leadership class at UC Riverside each quarter. The advice I give all of my students, and to anyone who asks (so thanks for asking!) is to pay attention. Observe, ask questions, and really study the lives of those who you think are the greatest leaders that you know. Ask them to tell you their story over a cup of coffee. Ask them who their earliest mentors were, who their favorite leaders are, and about their earliest leadership roles and experiences. But most of all, simply love and serve those around you. Leadership is a combination of our passion, desire to serve, love for our people, and ability to teach and mentor. A-S-K. Always Seek Knowledge.
What is your favorite quote?
This is tough one for me because I have collected my favorite quotes in notebooks for the past 35 years, but the one that has resonated with me since March of this year (2018) I heard for the first time from Dr. Ken Blanchard, when he spoke at our Family Business Hall of Fame. He said:
“If you think serving people is beneath you, then leadership is above you.”