Leadership Lessons from the Birthday Boy

by Jennifer Miller on July 1, 2011

in Leadership

I got the idea for this post from fellow Leadership Development Roundtable Challenge blogger Scott Eblin, who wrote a post as a tribute to his wife on their 24th wedding anniversary about the leadership lessons he’s learned from her.

Today is my husband’s birthday. Because I write a blog, I’m in the position to give him a unique birthday present: his very own blog post shout-out. He’s sort of shy, so when I talk about him on the blog, he goes by the name of Mr. People Equation. I feel comfortable writing this tribute to him because one of the things he does best is related to what I blog about: leadership.

And it’s not just personal bias (well, OK, maybe a little.) He came home one day about two months ago and told me that he had participated in a 360 degree feedback process at his company. He knows I groove on this stuff, so he shared his feedback results with me. Evidently, he had one of the most favorable ratings of any manager rated in his company. Ever the humble man, he joked that clearly, he hadn’t quite yet risen to his level of incompetence. And then he mused. . . “Maybe you could write a blog post about that . . .”

And so I am. But just not in the way he intended. For the past 22 years, I’ve witnessed Mr. People Equation demonstrate leadership while wearing the hats that many people wear: son, husband, father and yes, corporate manager.  Here are the five things I’ve learned about leadership by watching this incredibly talented, yet unassuming leader:

Speak softly and carry a big stick. In general, Mr. People Equation isn’t a loud person. He listens. He coaxes. He mediates. But sometimes, as a leader, you just have to put the hammer down. I’ve seen him do it enough times (and heard about a few others) to convince me that he has the fortitude to take a tough stand when needed.

Compassion matters. Showing people you care, whether it’s with an ailing parent, helping a child struggling with homework, or coaching an employee who is “stuck” goes a long way to smoothing the rough waters of tribulation.

Be curious. Some of the best leaders I know are intensely curious. They genuinely want to know about new ideas and ways to improve things. And they encourage those who follow them to do the same.

Be a problem-solver. Mr. People Equation’s college buddies used to joke that he was like MacGyver – “give him some twine, a Swiss army knife and duct tape, and he can fix anything!” Great leaders solve problems, often by using what’s at hand paired with a huge dose of creativity.

Avoid micro-managing. Effective leaders walk the fine line of knowing when to step in and when to stay out of it. According to Mr. People Equation’s direct reports, he manages the balance between checking in with his employees to make sure they are on task, yet remaining “hands-off’ and trusting his employees to complete their work.

I would imagine that you also have people in your life who have taught you leadership lessons. Perhaps they are somehow connected to you professionally, such as a mentor. Or, they are a personally connected to you, like the example I offer with my husband. You can even learn leadership lessons from completely unlikely places like teenagers or funny TED videos.

Leadership lessons are everywhere. What are some of your favorite lessons and where did they come from?

photo credit: istockphoto.com

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