At a leadership conference some years ago, we participated in an exercise to show the value of a group’s collective wisdom. That problem scenario had our group on a spaceship that had crash-landed
on the moon. The recovery site was some distance away. Which of the objects suggested would we take with us for a several-day hike? The list included items such as a compass, matches, a gun, water, and so on. (In fact, the test is here: http://tinyurl.com/survive-on-moon) The exercise ran twice, first individually and then as a group exercise.
When the scores were tallied, no one person in our group successfully made the journey to the rescue site. However, working as a team, we all “survived”. That was eye opening. It means that together, we are surrounded by wisdom and experience much greater than our own. And to tap into it, all you have to do is ask.
With that in mind and this being the leadership issue, let’s tap into the wisdom of the Windpower Engineering & Development staff for their observations and lessons on leadership. Their task: Provide a brief lesson in leadership from someone you have worked for.
Michelle Froese, Senior Editor: One of my first bosses was everything I admired at the time. She was a woman, she spearheaded a nonprofit environmental organization, and she was determined. I was young and impressionable. She was stern and demanding. But one summer day, she asked the staff to meet by a beautiful area we were working to preserve, gave us each a knapsack filled with snacks and a disposable camera, and told us to take the day off to recharge in nature. She said if she expected us to focus and work hard, she’d better remind us of the reason. You don’t always get what you wish for but you get what you work for, she’d say. Today, that area is still preserved and I take the time to hike and enjoy it every summer.
Mark Rook, VP of Creative Services: Lou Grasso was my boss in a marketing department back in the early 1990’s. He is one of the most talented illustrators and designers that I had the chance to work within the publishing industry. His actions and positive attitude made you want to do your best every day. I always strive to be as good as Lou.
Tom Lazar, Sales: Our company publisher, Mike Emich, was instrumental in helping me develop and hone my style through repetition and positive reinforcement. One particular time, I was having difficulty getting a prospective advertiser to respond to my typical sales efforts of calling and emailing. When I asked for advice, Mike asked, “Ever try just showing up?” I had not. So, when in the area again, I did just that: I showed up. I explained that I’d had a hard time reaching my contact, but was promptly introduced and able to make progress towards winning the business. It helped to know that Mike had worked through many of the same challenges. So with a positive result like that, trust was built further and has led to a successful six years.
Lee Teschler, Executive Editor and colleague: A new boss who was so passionate about what we were doing that he’d buy stuff for the organization out of his own pocket, which in one case was a pretty expensive video camera. This was after its purchase request was given the thumbs-down by upper managers who thought they knew better how to run our day-to-day activities than we did.
Neil Dvorak, brother: Probably the best boss I had was a Ken Jarrell. He had a way of getting the best out of people without using fear. One of his tactics, when holding meetings, was to let everyone tell what they were working on and where they were having problems. The rest of the group was encouraged to offer solutions. And they did, and that worked.
Your editor: Mine came from a boss, Ron Khol, on a magazine early in my career. He would criticize with humor. For example, to critique the whole magazine staff, he occasionally wrote what he called The journal of constructive ridicule, in which he would point out our perceived editorial shortcomings. On one occasion, he felt a more immediate need to needle. He approached my desk with the magazine opened to an article I edited, pointed to a confusing caption, and said in his best, loud Yiddish accent, “So vad am I luking at? Vat…is…dis?” OK, point made, Ron.
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