People usually look to the new year as a time to start doing something that they know they should have already been doing a long time ago, that said, I had a rather busy year last year and want to take some time this year to start posting again regularly. Recently I was tasked with coming up with a personal leadership philosophy, something I did a few times before, but dare I say that I am older, not necessarily wiser, but may have seen a bit more than the last time I took a stab at this. If you are in any of the classes I have coming up I would recommend that you give this a quick read, as you will find my grading policy, and the reason why I just can’t go easy on both the assignments or the grading.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
My personal philosophy of leadership is best summed up by this statement attributed to John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States – inspire others to overcome obstacles, personal and organizational, and even more inspire those around you to never stop learning. Adam’s words are a prelude to what Robert Greenleaf would consider servant leadership, where one “begins with the natural choice to serve first, and then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead”. We’ve all heard the term ‘to give back’, yet how many of us actually act on the urge to give back? How many can say that they are propelled forward by a belief that they will be able to help those that may find themselves in the same circumstances that they once were in themselves. I would like to invite you on a journey through my experiences in the next few paragraphs so that you may gain a clear understanding of what I will expect from you as well as how I formed these expectations.
First, let’s be clear, the pen may be mightier than the sword; however, we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A beautifully written philosophy is meaningless unless it is backed up by actions. How can I possibly ask you to do something that I would be unwilling to do myself? With that in mind understand that I will never ask you to take on a task that I would be unwilling to do.
I would like you to stop and think back right now to those who have had an impact on your path; they could be parents, coaches, teachers, managers, leaders, neighbors, and friends. I would be willing to bet that those who stand out the most were the ones that were not easy on you, that pushed you farther than you thought possible. Make no mistake; I will assign you tasks that will be considerably more difficult than those you have faced in the past which will require careful reflection, concentrated effort, and the ability to work as part of a team – if I for one second did not believe that you could accomplish the tasks that I have given I would not have assigned them in the first place.
Integrity in all that you do is the cornerstone to Mutual Respect and trust – Let me tell you a story if I may, I like to call it the time clock problem. I spent a considerable time of my early career in the back of kitchens throughout Europe. I only mention this as many of you know air conditioning is non-existent in most of Europe, and labor rules give the upper hand to employees and employers are often dealt with harshly for the smallest infraction. Most of us worked in the back of these kitchens were not European, and we never paid much attention to these rules, we worked when work needed to get done and we took breaks when possible, not when mandated, apparently, the management overlooked the fact that during peak times everyone was on the job and trained their focus on the off-peak times where everyone was on a break. We all knew that we were not abusing our time; we had integrity, and a collective work ethic that made that impossible, what we did not have was the trust of the management. One afternoon a time clock appeared on the wall. This was a devastating blow. It questioned everyone’s integrity; respect left the kitchen, and trust was broken. The lunch rush was impeded by these mandatory breaks, and off-peak times were being occupied by wiping down clean counters, driveways, and crystal clear windows. Single-handedly this device destroyed the morale of a functioning team. After three weeks of slow orders and unhappy customers the clock disappeared, however, trust and respect never came back. I will always come in expecting that you will have the integrity to do what is right, please do not let me down, as I have learned that trust and respect are much harder to gain than they are to lose. I also am very aware of the unintended consequences that something as seemingly small as a time clock can bring to a team, I will do my best to make sure that I never put this team through a “time-clock moment”; if you see this happening consider it your duty to call me out on it there may be a reason that you are not aware of and I may not have communicated this effectively. I need to know.
Communication is the key that unlocks doors – The most frustrating managers, leaders, or teachers that I have encountered have been those that shroud themselves in secrecy. Working in a vacuum is frustrating and saps morale; you deserve to work in an informed environment. One of the greatest leaders I have had the fortune of working for was (Army) Col. Lukey, he held weekly staff meetings that lasted no more than 15 minutes, the sole reason was to disseminate information from higher up to the entire team, and illustrate how everyone fit into the bigger picture. I hope to do the same, you should have no doubt in your mind of the importance that each of you bring to the organization.
Risk Taking is paramount to success – There is a quote on the wall of Facebook’s headquarters that reads, “Done is better than perfect”. Don’t be afraid to not be perfect, the world is full of perfect ideas that never get done, and imperfect ideas that are successful because they got done. Don’t be afraid to take risks. The only way to ensure that you never fail is to never do anything, seems logical. I have seen so many individuals with the potential to accomplish great things succumb to the fear of failure. I will never criticize those who throw themselves into a new task; take on more than they thought possible, push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. Understand, however, that this is not a free pass that allows you to turn in sub-par work. You should always aim to do your best; remember integrity in all you do.
Fair Treatment – There are no guarantees in life except maybe this, life will not be fair. I can’t change that, however, I can assure you that I will be fair in rating your performance. I come from a ‘hard science’ background and never could understand the subjectivity in many subjects that were taught in school. I will always make sure that you know up-front, not three weeks after something is done, what is expected, and how your performance will be rated. I will make it one of my goals to create a culture where management extends this service to everyone that they supervise. After all, without concrete expectations, how are you supposed to succeed?