The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership – Book Interview

Photo by Jim Byerly

Below is a book interview I did on Aug. 1, 2011 with Tracy Hatch, MnDOT Chief Financial Officer. We talked about the 14th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.


Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Hatch: I picked the book because I’ve read other work by this author and really enjoyed his perspective. John Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has written more than 50 books, primarily focused on leadership. I have read two of them – Failing Forward: Turning Your Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (2000) and The 360° Leader (2006)

Tang: What do you like about this book?

Hatch: The book was first published in 1998 and then revised and updated in 2007 as the 10th anniversary edition. In the book the author sums up everything he has learned about leadership over more than 40 years and distills it into the 21 principles. They are very concise, practical and applicable. I also like the real life stories and examples he shares to illustrate the lessons and principles.

Tang: Among the 21 laws discussed in the book, which one resonated more with you and why?

Hatch: The law of process – leadership develops daily, not in a day – speaks more to me than the others.

Leadership development is an on-going learning process of self-discipline and perseverance. Leaders are learners. Maxwell says: “Leadership doesn’t develop in a day. It takes a lifetime. To lead tomorrow, learn today.” You need to be intentional about your priorities and what you spend your time on.  There are always so many things demanding your time and attention, the law of process really spoke to me about being deliberate in those choices.

Tang: Please share some quotes from the book that are very meaningful for you.

Hatch: “The best place for a leader isn’t always the top position. It isn’t the most prominent or powerful place. It’s the place where he or she can serve the best and add the most value to other people.” – p. 52

“To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection, and character.” — p. 64

“People will tolerate honest mistakes, but if you violate their trust you will find it very difficult to ever regain their confidence. That is one reason that you need to treat trust as your most precious asset. You may fool your boss but you can never fool your colleagues or subordinates.” – P. 64 

Tang:  Tell us a little bit about your reading habits.

Hatch: I enjoy reading. Except for some classics, I mostly read nonfiction – biographies, politics, leadership and management. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to read right now, but I always have a book within reach in case I can steal a few minutes for it.

Tang:  Tell us a little bit about your background.

Hatch: I am a native Minnesotan. I went to Northwestern College in Iowa and have a degree in Business Administration. I have been with the state government for 15 years. I have worked at the departments of Correction, Education and Human Services before coming to MnDOT.

Tang: You started your career at MnDOT in March 2009 as budget director. In March 2011 you were promoted from your position as the business manager for Operations Division to MnDOT’s chief financial officer. Congratulations for your promotion. What is your secret?

Hatch: You better ask my boss and colleagues the question.  

I want to go back to the quote I shared earlier: “To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection, and character.

I think it’s a combination of character, competence and connection. In my first two years at MnDOT, I worked hard to understand the MnDOT business, gain knowledge about the different offices, build relationships and trust with people, and become a more rounded person. I think coming into the department with a fresh perspective  and the MnDOT knowledge I’ve gained over the past two years has really helped me to prepare to take the step into this position.

Tang:  Luck might also play a role. I think Commissioner Sorel has been very intentional in promoting younger generation to the upper management level. I remember when I interviewed him for the book on millennials and generational differences, I asked him about job assignments and promotion based on capabilities that millennials are accustomed to versus seniority that often happens in government, he said he looked at people’s capability and performance, not their years of services. Our MnDOT reorganization and upper management change at the beginning of the year was a testimony to his words.

Hatch: I agree.

Tang:  What are some of the new things or lessons you have learned in your new role that you would like to share?

Hatch: I gained a new appreciation for the staff in the Office of Financial Management, and all of the staff that work in administrative areas throughout the department, who work really hard every day behind the scenes.  The administrative functions are as complicated, difficult, and important as all of the other portions of our business.  I’m continually amazed at the dedication and commitment of the staff. I very much appreciate that they all love this department and, as we say, bleed orange along with the rest of the department.  I appreciate all MnDOT employees. After all, it’s what we all do together that makes MnDOT work.  WE ARE MnDOT…and proud!!