Leadership Insights: Interview with Skip Prichard

Skip Prichard, CEO of Ingram Content Group

Skip Prichard, CEO of Ingram Content Group

Today marks the start of what I hope will be a great series of interviews. I will be sharing interviews that I have done with exceptional leaders and the insights that they have shared with me.

I hope you will enjoy the first installment as I interview Skip Prichard, blogger and CEO of Ingram Content Group.

1. Joseph Lalonde: Would you mind telling my readers a little about yourself? Hobbies, aspirations, family, why you do what you do, etc…

Skip Prichard: I have to admit I stared at this question the longest.  I’ve never been comfortable talking about myself.  When I launched my leadership blog in late December, I had to write an “About Skip” section.  I was really pleased with how it read.  And then some good friends weighed in saying, “Skip, you wrote all about your company and not a thing about yourself.”  So, I rewrote it and made it more personal.  It felt about as difficult as writing this to you.

Professionally, I’m the CEO of one of the largest book companies in the world, Ingram Content Group.  We distribute and manufacture books all over the world in both physical and digital format.  I do a fair amount of public speaking on digital change and corporate turnarounds.

Somewhat unusual was the way I grew up.  My mom and dad were told they couldn’t have any children, so they figured they would become missionaries to Africa instead.  After they finished seminary, and before they left, my mom became pregnant with my oldest sister.  They decided to stay in the US, but make their home a place to help people.  We had numerous people living with us—some for a few days and others for a few years.  All races, religions and backgrounds.  Many had been abused.  Some had disorders.  One had multiple personalities.  As a kid, I became fascinated with why some people succeed and others fail.  That started a life-long passion for studying success, motivation, inspiration and leadership.

I have a wonderful wife and daughter.  I’m always busy at work and at home.  In my spare time, I love to spend time with my family, though you will often find me reading, writing, working out at the gym, listening to all types of music or attending live sports, concerts or seminars.

2. I’m always interested in what other leaders are reading. What books are on your reading list?

I read constantly.  Also, since I’m in the book business, the books I am reading are usually not yet published. I read widely from fiction to nonfiction and in most every category.  It’s important for me to know about the big books publishers have coming out.

My blog features many in-person interviews with bestselling authors and great books, all of which I’ve recently read.  You can find them at www.skipprichard.com.

3. You’ve risen to great heights at Ingram Content Group. What attributes and skills helped you rise to the level of leadership you’re currently experiencing?

Like most executives, I’m driven.  Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a passion for personal development.  I attended so many seminars whether in-person or recorded that I’ve internalized many of those principles.  Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”  That’s important for all of us to remember because only by getting better can we become more valuable to an organization.  I also surround myself with talented people, who are different from me.  As a team, we fill in each others’ weaknesses and utilize our strengths.  Finally, I definitely make mistakes.  I have a philosophy that says if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying new things.  Success only comes by failing and trying again.  We’ve all seen a major project fail and everyone knew it was coming.  Most disasters are long in the making.  Our job as leaders is to help ourselves and others fail quickly.

4. Having a mission statement personally and for your organization is important. How have you seen mission statements shape your life and Ingram Content Group?

I know personal mission statements are important and can really make a huge difference for some people.  Even more important is to know yourself and your goals.  Fill your mind with the positive and with the material you need to be an expert in your chosen field.  Be very clear on your own principles, and let them be your guide.

5. Leaders know that we don’t do life alone. There are many people who help us become the leaders that we are today. Who would you say has had the biggest impact on your life? What has he/she taught you?

Joe, I can’t pick one person because there are many.  My wife is my best friend and most important advisor, but there are so many that influence me.  Christian recording artist Steve Green and his brother David have been incredibly important influences in my life.  One of my teachers growing up, Sheldon Bair was an early influencer.

In business, Bruce Rhoades is a mentor who has advised me for years.  Michael Hyatt and Rolf Zetterson were two publishers who encouraged me to start blogging.  Other influences have been people like Zig Ziglar, Dr. Charles Stanley and Jim Rohn.

And then numerous friends have played a role in my life.  Also, there are many great people in history who have influenced me through their writings.  That’s the power of biographies and great books!  I’m so grateful for the many people I work with and who I’ve known through the years who have had an impact on my life.  What I like to do is periodically write blog posts about them.

6. As we progress in our leadership, changes will happen. Sometimes the changes are welcome and other times they are unpleasant. How have you dealt with change in your role as a leader?

Change offers us the best opportunity for growth.  I’ve been through many changes, but whether professionally or personally I always look back and see how I learned more during that period than any other.  As a leader, dealing with change and ambiguity can be daunting.  If you have a set of principles in place, then whatever comes your way has a filter and a framework to help guide you.

7. Many young leaders are anxious to get out and lead. If you could give one piece of advice to these young leaders, what advice would you give them?

Do it!  The ambitious leaders who want to get out and lead should start leading.  Volunteer to help with a difficult project.  Do everything with passion.  Work harder than you think you should.  You aren’t working for a paycheck; you’re working for a reputation and for knowledge.  And to lead well, follow well.  Study leaders.  What do you like?  What would you do differently?  What do you want to emulate?  Read great books and blogs to help give you ideas.  And remember that you want to become someone people want to follow, which is far more important than getting a leadership job.

8. We all come across struggles in our roles as a leader. Whether it be difficulty with our team, work-life balance, or another struggle. Would you share what you feel has been your biggest struggle as a leader? How have you dealt with this struggle?

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book entitled The Five Temptations of a CEO.  When I first read it, my weakness was number two (popularity over accountability).  It’s when the desire to be liked trumps results.  When I read that, I made a conscious effort to change.  I’ve worked through very challenging corporate turnarounds, helping companies losing millions a month to making millions a month.  If I hadn’t worked on this temptation, I would never have been able to lead my team to success.  Now, I would say it’s work-life balance, which is a constant issue.  I have a strong desire to do everything with excellence, which is a blessing and also a burden.

Thank you, Skip, for the time you’ve taken to respond to my questions on leadership. Any closing thoughts you would like to leave my readers?

Your readers are smart enough to read your blog, which means they are seeking good counsel.  I’m always learning from other people, and I think being teachable is important.  I’m so blessed to be surrounded by people I can learn from, people who help me get better.  I remember Jack Nicholson saying a line in a movie once:  “You make me want to be a better man.” That’s the type of leader I strive to be—someone who inspires others to be better.  Because that’s exactly the feeling I’ve had when I have encountered true leaders.  Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Joe.  I appreciate the opportunity.

Question: If you had the opportunity, what questions would you ask Skip? Who else would you like to see me interview? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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