“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
— John C. Maxwell
In a recent article in Trinitas Advisors, Leadership Coach Jack Lyons dissects John C. Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Coach Lyons agrees with Mr. Maxwell that Leadership is about setting direction, aligning people, motivating, and inspiring — adding:
“Each law is like a ready-made tool to be used to add value to other people and to help us achieve our dreams.”
Many years ago, I had the privilege of working with a man who was a true leader.
With over one hundred employees under his watch, he was a stellar example of a person who achieved extraordinary results from his team.
We first met when he interviewed me for a newly-opened position. I was nervous — wondering if I’d be good enough. The hour meeting was filled with the usual and appropriate questions, while still affording me plenty of time to make my pitch.
On the way home, I had no idea whether I’d made a good impression.
And I was still trying to figure out my potential boss’s management style.
Over the next few days, I waited — hoping he would decide I’d be a good fit for the company.
I really wanted to work for this man.
Fortunately, he offered me the opportunity to prove myself, and I received a job offer. Under his tutelage, I began an early education on what it takes to succeed — and achieve my personal best.
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During my initial training period, I rarely saw him. But I had a high degree of confidence he was in the background, monitoring my abilities and progress.
His influence in the work environment was obvious.
Everyone in the office made an effort to meet me, offering smiles and welcoming handshakes. There seemed to be an honest, underlying sense of respect in the interactions I observed between my co-workers and, after attending my first personnel meeting, I found out why.
That first meeting fueled me with excitement.
I was ready to learn more about the man I now worked for. As I walked toward the conference room, I noticed him standing at the entrance door, greeting everyone by first name — with a handshake.
After taking a seat and getting settled, I scanned the room. Nearly every person in our division was in attendance. Not because they had to be — as I later found out — but because they wouldn’t miss it.
The few stragglers that arrived after the meeting had started were also made to feel welcome.
Rather than admonish their tardiness in front of the group, my new boss simply offered a nod and continued with his presentation. He didn’t interpret their late arrival as an intrusion or a sign of disrespect from a lazy employee. Instead, he afforded them the benefit of the doubt, knowing that staff priorities had to be flexible if we were to maximize customer service.
And I was pretty happy about that, knowing I may encounter a similar situation in the future.
As he navigated his way through the tables, we watched him with excited anticipation — our small talk diminishing to silent respect as we focused our attention on our leader.
That’s when he demonstrated his special brand of management.
And the magic began.
This man was a no BS guy. Presenting the company’s goals in tandem with his own, he was a pioneer of transparency — and expected the same from his subordinates.
Walking around the room as he spoke, he’d make comfortable eye contact with every member of his team — encouraging a genuine connection.
And while there were always lively discussions and opinions from all angles and perspectives, each person was given fair and equal floor time, with everyone encouraged to speak and contribute.
I left that meeting with a strong sense of inspiration and motivation.
I wanted to be better, a more proficient contributor to the company — I wanted to make my boss proud.
No, I’m not making this up. It was a privilege to work for this man. And while his influence made an impact on me a couple of decades ago, I continue to hope there are still a few of these selfless leaders around.
We all need an environment where we’re given the opportunity to speak our minds without judgment, intolerance, or penalty. We need leaders who encourage such an atmosphere — someone we can admire and respect — someone we trust.
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Jill Reid is the author of Real Life, and founder of Pathway to Personal Growth. Her books and articles explore life, happiness, self-improvement, health, productivity, relationships, and personal success strategies for living longer and stronger through positive lifestyle choices.