Last Spring, my husband and I completed our 35th year in the community we moved to as newlyweds. This caused me to reflect upon the people and companies I have worked for and their impact on my career.
As most everyone, I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly in the working world. If you exclude consulting work and the jobs I held in high school and college, I have reported to a total of 15 bosses in 35 years. Former employers include a federal court, a hospital, 3 law firms, and a publishing company.
3 now deceased
1 is incarcerated
They were all influential, one way or the other. Three of the 15 were highly positive forces with lasting impact to my career. I have seen only two of them in recent years. One former boss currently serves time in a federal penitentiary for murder. Yes, he was one of the nine attorneys, but (thankfully) not a judge.
If you are in a position of any kind whereby you hold power over someone else, you are technically considered a leader. Merriam-Webster’s definition: a person who has commanding authority or influence. Obviously, the workplace isn’t the exclusive arena for great leaders and mentors. So the lessons learned are just as applicable outside the workforce.
When you recall someone you worked for, what is your lasting impression? Dimes to donuts it directly correlates to how he/she made you feel. “The final test of a leader is the feeling you have when you leave his presence after a conference. Have you a feeling of uplift and confidence?” Field General Bernard Montgomery.
Was the management style one of fear and distrust? Were you micromanaged or exploited in any way as a means to an end? That’s UGLY. Was your leader genuinely interested in motivating you to grow, reach and achieve? One direction incites disrespect and distrust. The other generates respect and trust. He who has the respect has the power. Think about it.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things,” President Ronald Reagan.
It was the CFO who taught me not to focus on income advising “Do what you love and do it well. The money will take care of itself.” The key is to work at being significant and the success will naturally follow. Tom Brokaw: “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”
Given that I did (inadvertently) work for a crook or two, and two others who possessed the morals of tom cats, integrity is a supremely important mark of a great leader. “Without it, no real success is possible….. If his associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail….The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
CEO Frank Perdue: “If you believe in unlimited quality and act in all your business dealings with total integrity, the rest will take care of itself.” EVERYTHING related to morale and integrity in an organization trickles down from the top. If you have these issues, you have a problematic leader. Those who lead and motivate through INFECTIOUS OPTIMISM, Inextinguishable Hope, passion, encouragement, goodwill, humility, who inspire with their genuine style, intelligence, and authentic communication are the most successful, respected and beloved leaders.
If you lack the care, consideration and sympathy to understand the mentality of your employees, you cannot draw out and coach the best in them. It becomes quite evident they are not a priority. Employees are very perceptive. “Smart people do not want to work for people who do not have their interests in mind and in heart…Truly great leaders create an environment where the employees feel that the CEO cares more about the employees than she cares about herself.” (Ben Horowitz).
Great leaders innately know the wants and needs of those who follow them. If you have to ask, you have work to do. That’s BAD. For a list of current employee priorities, refer to Robin Shea’s post: What do employees want? A warm and fuzzy post.
Through no coincidence, the former leader who most influenced my career continues to support and motivate me. And he reads this blog. True leadership is lasting and extends far beyond life spans and circumstances. That’s GOOD.
~ From the desk of Becky Morlok ~
In dedication and thanks to Fred Foster.
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