A significant part of what makes a company successful is its management team. Though there are many traits that a good manager should exhibit, we wanted to see which one would be the most important. To answer that, we asked Jim Myers, The President of Whip Mix, for his unique perspective into what characteristics he would like to see in his leaders and managers.
Q. Jim, What is one specific characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
A. Well, there are many great qualities that every leader should possess. To boil it down to one is tough, but I will offer at least the one characteristic that I have responded to and admired in my leaders throughout the years. In my opinion, humility is the most desired characteristic. Today you may see it referred to as servant leadership. It is that leader that puts his staff or his team members first that has the proper focus and emphasis on what will sustain the company in the long run. No leader should ever think of them self as bigger than that which they represent. From a business perspective that means that your name is not bigger than the company’s. But what if you own the company and it’s your name on the building? Okay, you have me there on a technicality. The point would still remain, that even with your name on the building, it’s the people inside, it’s those that have gone before you perhaps, that make the company successful or not. You see and hear this talked about in sports all the time. A coach or player is often quoted that you play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.
I really identified with Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and what he referred to as “Level 5 Leadership.” There is a quote at the beginning of a chapter that I have come across many times and found that it deeply resonated with me. Harry S. Truman once said:
“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.” Collins goes on to explain that “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
I suppose it also reminds me of my father. He was a man that overcame many challenges in life and became a husband, father, and friend that many admired. He was an easy going guy that led more by example than words. Yet he did share with me throughout my life that his one pet peeve (at least that I can recall) was people that brought attention to themselves. I guess you could say maybe some of that rubbed off on me. In fact, the very act of writing this blog goes against my nature. I would much prefer that others share their expertise than to appear presumptuous about my thoughts and experiences. Yet the team here thought that some may find these musings helpful and for that I complied.
My finishing comments I think should try to address the dichotomy of practicing humility and yet allow or even direct others to take the podium, so to speak. One might argue that it appears to be an abdication of responsibility or leadership to push others on stage while standing in the wings. And I agree with that sentiment if those you choose do not possess the expertise, the talent, or the wherewithal to handle the job. Here at Whip Mix that is not the case. We are blessed to have many dedicated and knowledgeable individuals that have spent many hours, days, and even years researching the issues and challenges that face our customers. I find it only prudent that they be front and center and available to customers and the broader audience of the dental industry to show how Whip Mix can be the solution. And I must add, that I am extremely proud of our team and the service they provide.
Furthermore, never mistake humility as the absence of responsibility. Once again Harry Truman helps make my point. Truman had a sign on his desk that stated “The BUCK STOPS here.” It served as a reminder that as the leader, the ultimate decision(s) is yours. You cannot shirk from the responsibility of the hard decisions. As the leader, it is your responsibility to shape the strategic direction of the firm as well as the culture that surrounds it. Use your valued team members in doing so, but always remember they are looking to you to lead.
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