Thursday night, I recalled an example of great leadership from my past. It happened while I was in the washroom (reapplying my makeup). I saw that there was paper towel all over the floor, so I went about picking it up. It reminded me of the year the then-manager made a bathroom cleaning schedule for the team. At one morning meeting, the staff began complaining about how unfair it was for the same people to clean the washroom all the time.
My supervisor stopped the chatter cold when she said, “Listen, I am on the schedule too. I also clean the bathroom. I would never make you do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself.” I recall thinking at the time, “Man, she gets this whole leadership thing.” I have been with my current place of employment for more than a decade, and I have worked with many different types of leaders. I will have to say, that between the years 2006-2009, I grew the most because of the people in charge.
I remember another instance in which I received assistance from a great boss. It was my first year as a receiver, and 13 pallets of merchandise got delivered to the store. The warehouse only has room for 12, so I was in a bit of a panic. I called the general manager, expecting her to assign someone to help me. She did, but she also came back in her professional shirt and slacks, and helped us.
By the end, we were all covered in dirt, but every pallet was unpacked. I learned another lesson: “Great leaders lead by example.” She showed me that day that she was not too “high and mighty” to do the hard work that was necessary to complete a task. Excellent leaders are also excellent servants. (P.S. 4 years on, and I am still sad that she had to leave us.)
I had another boss that taught me how crucial it was to do a good job the first time. She would assign a task, usually a merchandise display, and give me a time limit. I would do what I thought was okay in the time frame, only to have her say, “OK”…and then do the display 100 times better than I did while explaining how and why she did it. The lesson I learned from her: “If you do a job right the first time, there is no need for revisions”. Her standard was not perfection. It was excellence. The people who worked under her leadership learned those lessons and never forgot them.
The last boss is someone who showed me how to be a boss without ever having the title. When we were both doing the same job, she was one of those people that I just knew would be promoted, which she was several times. She ended up as second-in command to the general manager; a role she did faithfully with many different leaders. The thing I admired most about her is the fact that she had the expertise and experience to be the boss of everyone, but she was both humble and faithful enough to take a backseat, and work behind the scenes. The lesson I learned from her; “Not every job is about getting credit. Faithfulness is its own reward.”
If I were to include every leader who has made an impact on me, it would take several blog posts. I also had a leader who taught me the importance of compassion in the workplace. Another leader kept everyone and on task. One leader made sure that everyone had fun, and one made sure that every staff member knew how he or she was appreciated by management.
My first examples of leaders were my parents, but I am grateful for every leader I have had apart from them because every one has taught me something valuable. In the last 14 years of work, I have learned that managers do not have to shout to make their point. They delegate tasks to the people best equipped to handle them. They admit when they are wrong, and learn from mistakes. They are faithful. They lead by example. They do not expect their subordinates to adhere to standards that they do not conform to themselves.
Leadership is not a job. It is a calling. The man or woman who answers the call of a leader will do that regardless of the role he or she fills. One of the most misunderstood facts about leadership is whether a person can be a leader when he is not in charge. The answer to that is, absolutely. The person who can be a good example for others to follow is a leader, whether he/she is a boss or not.
The call equips a person for the role.
Thanks to every leader I have had, from childhood until now. You have all been influential forces in my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.