What is a leader? What attributes do they possess? How can I become an effective leader? Listen to Richard King as he speaks about his life experiences that helped him develop his leadership attributes.
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today with Richard King. Rick was the International Rotary President from 2001-2002. Rick welcome to today’s show.
Rick: Thank you, nice to be back with you Alan
Alan: So Rick, over the course of years you developed- You have an interesting history, let’s go through this. You once were a Vegas entertainer?
Rick: Yes I sang three shows a night at the Desert Inn. Rocky Senas was my agent, I was performing in Woodminster in the Oakland Hills, and Bonnie Rate’s father John Rate had a manager named Sessel Lork. He came and saw me do the music man, and Sessel said to me, how would you like to sing in Las Vegas? Well in those days, Frank Sinatra owned the town and it was very exciting for a young performer to be invited to sing in Las Vegas. What I didn’t realize is that I would be singing three shows a night, four weeks at a time. I flew daily from the Oakland airport to Las Vegas, McCarran field, went up to my room, had a corn beef sandwich, for dinner. About 11:00 at night the master of ceremonies would ring me would, “Here he is all the way from san Francisco, the baritone barrister, better known as the singing sue-er” That was my fuzzy introduction to singing. I’d sing at 11:00 at night, then 1:00 in the morning, then 4:00 in the morning. I’d go to by rom, have another corn beef sandwich for breakfast- in those days I didn’t have Sherry my wife so I didn’t have anyone telling me how to eat right- have a corn beef sandwich and Pepsi-Cola for breakfast, go to sleep for 3-4 hours, then I’d get on a plan and by 12:00 I’d be in my office suing. And I’d be suing all day and singing all night four weeks at a time, those were heavy days.
Alan: Thus you were called the singing suer, playing on the fact that you were an attorney.
Rick: I enjoyed it, I met Sinatra and Jimmy Durante and a lot of the big stars in Hollywood, it was a great time to be there with the stars, entertaining.
Alan: I understand did you Christmas carol with Bing Crosby?
Rick: Yes, Bing and I did a show for the United Way in San Francisco, many years ago. And of course, he was a big star, I was just invited to come along and add a little something to the show. So it was very exciting for me, subsequently I was invited to his home for Christmas eve dinner in Hillsborough- which was where he lived with his second family. And I was very excited too, I was dating his nutritionist- Tammy Taylor. And Bing and his wife Cathy, and their three children (second family). The dinner was treated by Trader Ricks, Trader Rick was there himself. There were more waiters from Trader Ricks than there were of us eating, and they were all behind a great table for Christmas Eve Dinner. Mary Francis was probably only 9 years old, and she said to be, “Mr. King, do you know who lives next to us?’ I said, no I don’t. She said “A real millionaire” –which is a tribute to Bing, he’d kept his kids sheltered to the fact that he was a pretty wealthy man himself. He said, “Should we rehearse for Mr. King?” So they stood there, Bing, Kathy, Mary Francis, the two boys, me and my date. Bing didn’t have his toupee on, he was bald as an ape, great guy, wonderful human being, then he said, “Let me rehearse for Mr. King”. And he sang White Christmas acapela, one of the most memorable nights I’ve ever had. Bing Crosby singing White Christmas to me in his home, without his hair on, in a blazer rehearsing so he could go next door to the real millionaire so could sing Christmas carols for them.
Alan: Few people have had such a wonderful experience.
Rick: Well I’ve had a lot of them over the years. The night that I was to first meet Bing, I was invited to sing for Ronald Regan. He was running for Governor of California, in Goodman Hall at Jack London Square. It was a $1000 a plate dinner. I said I’d be delighted to sing for Mr. Regan, however I don’t want to sit at the head table. I’m meeting Mr. Bing Crosby for tonight; I’ve been invited over to his home for dinner, so I hope Mr. Regan will understand. ‘Oh I’m sure he will, because he and Bing are old friends.’ So when I got there were 1000 people with a $1000 plate dinner, and sure enough there was my name plate at the head table with Ronald and Nancy Regan. I think he was already Governor at that time and was running for re election as I recall. So I said to him, Mr. Regan, I hope you forgive me and I know this is so rude, but I have to leave after I sing because I’m supposed to be having dinner tonight with Mr. Bing Crosby. Well he was courteous as he always was and said, “I’ve known Bing for Years so give him my best. So I scooted out. After I sang. So I got to Hillsborough and Bing’s house and was greeted by Cathy Crosby in a house coat, she said, oh Rick, Bing’s gone to bed, he’s heading to Africa on a photo taking safari and he needed to go to bed early and wants you to come back at another date. Well I had a ham sandwich in the pantry with Alan Fisher, their famous English butler. And that’s the night I was supposed to meet Bing Crosby in a surrogated way.
Alan: Well how fun. I’ve been visiting today with Rick King; he’s the former international President of Rotary International and was a Las Vegas Singer. We’ve been visiting about his life and when he comes back we want to visit on leadership. Well be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, we’re visiting here today with Rick King, he’s a former International Rotary President from 2001-2002. He also did a stint as a Vegas entertainer and a day job as an attorney. Rick, few people have seen the things that you’ve seen ion life and you have the capacity to lead, Rotary is a huge one with humanitarian causes and making differences in the world. Becoming a leader, is it something that is inherited in one’s soul or is it something that’s developed.
Rick: I believe that it is developed. There are some people that are born with leadership characteristics, the ability to listen, the ability to communicate, but I believe for the most part that leadership is a developed trait. I read an article in Forbes magazine a number of years ago. It was titled, wanted: corporate leaders, mere managers need not apply. And the article went on to point out the difference between leadership and management, that it is a visionary skill, that it’s developed. Where management is run on computers these days and every year we graduate thousands of MBA graduates from Universities in this country, and every year thousands of companies are managed into bankruptcy. Leadership is the ability to influence others to a course of action, and it requires three characteristics. There’s a conviction, a knowledge that something within you is right., they believe in what you’re doing. Second, there’s a vision, the ability to see the potential for the organization or the division or society we’re leading. And third, and this may be the most important of all, I believe that more things are done by commitment and that people are motivated by a sense of commitment. Commitment comes from a sense of what you have, and my commitment comes from a sense of seeing years and years of humanitarian projects all over the world, because always it changes the life of the giver more than the life of the receiver.
Alan: Conviction, I’ve heard you tell the story before when you were in the entertainment industry and you were approached to be the Marlbolo man.
Rick: I was a client in the Ann Brettner Agency in San Francisco. Ann Brettner was a famous talent agent that represented movie stars when they made movies in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was doing television commercials and still commercials during the years that I was singing in Las Vegas. One day Ann Brettner called me up and said come over, there’s some men in suits here and they want to talk to you about doing a television commercial. It’s going to make you famous. Well I had just become a Latter-day Saint, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I was teaching Seminary in the early morning to high school students. And I was trying to motivate them to lead a good life, one of which was not smoking or drinking. When I got to the Ann Bretner studio, they offered me a contract to be the new Marlbolo man. And I said without thinking what it would do to my seminary students- I don’t smoke. ‘Well you don’t have to smoke, we show you on a horse out in some place in the snow in Montana in the winter.’ Well I don’t know how to ride a horse. ‘That’s not a problem, we’ll prop you up, put a stedsen on you and you’ll be the new Marlbolo man. And they offered me some good money to do this. So I drove back across the San Mateo Bridge from San Francisco very excited to be the new Marlbolo man. And by the time I got to my house, I knew that I couldn’t do it, because I knew I couldn’t justify not smoking to my high school seminary students when I was trying to teach them one thing, I couldn’t act a different way. It was a tough one to turn down but it was the beginning of a lot of experiences over the years when I had to choose who I really am. Conviction in what I am and what I do are really the same, and not just what I believe and what I do are separate things. It’s stood me in good stead over the years; I think it’s paid off.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Rick King, former International Rotary President and he’s a legacy in Leadership. Rick I need to take a quick break, we’ll be right back after these messages with Rick King.
Alan: Welcome back we’ve been visiting here today with Rick King, former international Rotary President from 2001-2002. We’ve been talking about leadership. Rick, is there a memory that stands out that is the most memorable?
Rick: I’ve been a leader in many organizations, primarily in Rotary International over the years, and I believe that the best definition of leadership that I’ve come across is that a leader is someone that influences some to do something, a course of action, something that a leader has in mind. I wanted when I was the international president of Rotary to develop the organization in terms of its membership, in collectivity and work. We sent millions of dollars to Afghan refugees, we grew 75,000 members around the world, did 1,158 new rotary clubs, but it was our humanitarian projects, the movement forward in our polio eradication campaign that has motivated me to try to be a leader. Trying to get someone to buy in to do what you want them to do requires listening to them, and then trying to convince them with influence about getting excited about making it their idea as well as theirs. When it becomes their idea, they buy in and get the job done. When I was the Governor of Rotary in this district of 30-40 clubs years ago, I wanted them to do some things. I wanted them to expand the idea of Rotary being community and humanitarian service around the globe in a big way. Many of the club presidents resisted me initially because they were a frightened, they were afraid to take it on. So I went to the president of the Hayward Rotary club, Charlie Plumber, who was then the Chief of Police. Charlie Plumber was a macho man. He wore a pistol on his belt when he presided over the Rotary club meeting. Nobody argued with him when it came to fighting, great guy and for many years was the sheriff of Alameda County. You and I know Charlie, he was a marine, he was a macho man’s man. I said Charlie; I want you to get them to contribute to the Rotary foundation. He said, ‘They won’t like that Rick, they’ll kick us both out of the town.’ I said, I want you to ask them one by one, do it for me, would you do it for me? And I’ll take the rap for it, so you can stay in town and I’ll leave. Charlie called me up at the end of his term like a kid with a new red wagon. He’d got 29 new Paul Harris Fellows, which was $29,000 in contributions to the Rotary foundation. First time the club had ever done anything like that and he was very excited. At the district conference in San Jose, Charlie Plumber got up and gave a speech, and this is what he said, ‘Rick, I would follow you anywhere because you made me better than I thought I was.’ Now I have a house full of accolades, I have a wonderful letter from Ronald Regan for my service in the community, leaders from heads of states have given me beautiful gifts, tributes, honorary doctorates, on and on and on. But the possession I prize most is a letter from Charlie Plumber. Wherein he reiterated when he said that line, ‘you made me better, than I thought I was. And I thought to myself, that’s what a leader does, he tries to make people better, then they think they are and elevates them to a higher status to get things done that they didn’t think was possible before. And I’m really proud of that, that macho guys like Charlie Plumber though I was a leader.
Alan: Who gets more out of leadership, the giver or the receiver?
Rick: The giver always. I’ve received more, time and time again, with all the experiences I’ve had over the years, I remember being in Orange County, speaking to a rotary club, and I was great by a dear friend of mine in the floor covering business. And he was always a leader in his own right. He said, “Rick, you always get more than you give”. I said, tell me about it. “Well we went to the hospital today to bring home our first grandchild, who was born a week ago Sunday. And the doctors had told us she probably wouldn’t survive. We didn’t understand all the illness and problems and complications at birth”. So a week or so after her birth they went to the hospital to bring home their first grandchild. And she’d been elevated to 50/50. He said, “We went into the hospital room and this little baby who’d been born, 7-8 pounds was hooked up to this big machine with tubes and wires and Carol and I put our arms around each other and we wept and we prayed and we wanted to will our grandchild to life. And I felt so helpless. And then all of the sudden in the corner, the machine, keeping my grandchild alive- I got the shock of my life, because there was the rotary wheel. And underneath a leader plaque that said that this machine was donated by my rotary club. He said my mind raced back Rick when the President of the club asked for contributions. A machine was needed by the children’s wing of the hospital. ‘$1 million, but I think we can do it’. So I wrote a check Rick because Rotary is always asking for a little of our money. And then I sold beer and hot dogs at the club fundraiser at the county fair, because rotary I always asking for a little of our time. A little of our money and a little of our time. And I forgot all about it. Three years later until last Sunday until that machine was keeping my first grandchild alive”. And then he broke down and he cried, a successful businessman. It didn’t make a difference all of the sudden how big his car was, how big his house was, how much money he made all that mattered was that that machine kept his grandchild alive. And he said, Rick, how did we ever get into an organization that’s asking us to give. Because you can’t give it away. Some way or another, sooner than later, always ad inevitably, it come back. And I believe that its always the giver, some how or another that’s always enriched more. We had a wonderful Rotarian by the name of Albert Switzer, Rotary produces the more truly human man, the more truly human woman. I believe that to be true, it’s certainly been true in my own life and my own case.
Alan: Rick its always a pleasure to have you on the show, and that was a wonderful story. Rick King, International President of Rotary, he’s been sharing his thoughts on leadership and also some of the memories he’s had throughout the years. Thank you.
Rick: Thank you Alan, it’s always a pleasure to be with you, thank you for what you’re doing.
Alan: Thank you, we’ll be right back after these messages.