We’ve all enjoyed and suffered with a variety of leaders in our working careers. They have unwittingly imparted many leadership lessons just by their behavior and day-to-day activity of running their departments. So for this leadership issue, I thought it would be instructive to recall those people and the lessons they taught, both good and bad. Let’s start with a recent experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of the simplest customer service. The old test here is to call into your company some time with a slightly unusual request, and see what treatment you receive. Then ask: how would a customer interpret a similar experience?
A better example came on a recent trip to Europe when the airline lost my luggage. I politely complained while the handler—genuinely concerned—filed the paperwork to relocate it. After he told me when the bag would be delivered, I thanked him and left. But just a minute later, he came running after me with an emergency kit of toiletries and clean underwear. That was a nice touch. He did not have to find me because I was out of sight and headed to a taxi. But he did and I appreciated the effort.
Fortune favors the bold. In 1968, I had the privilege of serving with the Air Force attached to the U.S. Army in Vietnam. On one occasion, our division moved to a forward location and two separate camps, one with showers and ours without. As you can imagine, travel from one camp to the other after dark was discouraged. But at the end of several hot, humid, and shower-less days, something had to be done. An always entertaining and confident Spec 4 Benjamin Sargis hit on an idea. After dark that night, he procured a jeep and with four of us onboard, he ordered, “You guys keep quiet. I’ll do the talking.” We agreed and drove to the camp gate. There, with his typical moxie, he told the MPs, “We are the intelligence team from General Smith headed to the 2100 briefing.” With only a little suspicion (we were all obviously enlisted men) the MP opened the gate and off we drove into the Vietnam night. Sargis repeated a similar performance at the entrance gate some distance away and in we drove. After showering, we returned refreshed, amused, and alive.
So what did Benjamin teach us? There are times to act like you know what you doing, keep a straight face, and expect a solid performance from the one in charge.
(From Nic Sharpley) For goodness sake, know your people. After receiving numerous accolades at an insurance company, I was up for a promotion which called for a meeting with a department manager. My supervisor, also in attendance, and I were confident the promotion was mine. But to our great surprise, the manager who had little interaction with me, began with a reprimand for tardiness and delayed assignments. So shocked at his words, I sat speechless. My supervisor, however, interrupted the harangue with, “She has never done what that! You’ve got the wrong person.” Obviously, he mixed my record with another’s. But unbothered by the error, he denied the promotion. We left the meeting stunned. My supervisor vowed to clear up the confusion and with assistance from Human Resources, did so. Eventually, I received the now tainted promotion.
Ask if you want something. Even the bible provides this lesson in leadership. I have come to the conclusion that people want to say “yes” to reasonable requests and that asking them to take on an additional task often elicits a positive response. The surprising discovery is that people are looking for more to challenge themselves and your request may well be divine intervention.
Lastly, each anecdote here reminds me of a comment from business author Steven Covey (7 habits of highly effective people): Build your organization on the strength of your teammates, and their weaknesses become irrelevant. Amen. WPE
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