BOSTON — It's the man's mom that I want to meet.
The most compelling part of Bob Knowling's wonderful story, to me, is not him but his mother.
She not only taught him how to work hard but how to be a leader, and she used an approach right out of the book.
I first heard about Mr. Knowling two years ago from Noel Tichy, one of America's business gurus and author of a remarkable book, "The Leadership Engine."
Mr. Tichy says that great companies produce great leaders as much as the other way around.
Sustained success comes by teaching people how to lead, he says. (Another well-honed tome on the topic comes from Harvard professor Roger Fisher: "Getting it Done: How to lead when you're not in charge.")
Effective leaders can define themselves in words, something more than "let's all give it 110 percent" or "remember how good we used to be."
They can talk to you for 15 to 20 minutes and impart their ideas, values, and what Tichy calls their "E, the emotional energy and edge" - the thing that makes them exciting to be around.
A leader can paint a verbal picture of what she or he is about. It's what makes us want to follow.
Which is what Knowling's mom did so succinctly. She told her son, "I am tired of losing my children. You are not quitting school," and "I am off welfare forever."
That's a leadership strategy, and it not only shaped Knowling's attitude toward himself but taught him a leadership and work ethic he now imparts to others.
If you're a leader - business, family, sports, friendship - run, don't walk to page 16 for some of Knowling's own ideas.