Welcome back to our comparison between the “Ying and Yang” Leadership styles, a little exercise designed to help us all (me included) distinguish the traits that separate, well, total “Assholes” from outstanding “Leaders”. The idea here is that by putting it all out there, there are lessons to be learned that help each of us grow and develop in both our work, and our day to day lives. As examples, I’ve used two real-life bosses I’ve worked with, and constructed profiles of what a typical work day looked like from my perspective of being their employee.
Last post we looked at “Big Guy”: A tyrannical, cowardly boss who took zero responsibility, and used his position to bully his way through each day, mostly to hide his ignorance of the business. As identified, his “style” (or lack thereof) not only created chaos in the workplace, but for me, left a lasting stain on my soul for quite some time. Today we are going to look at a style that is the polar opposite, that being one of “The “Leader”. And to be clear, I’m not only talking about leadership as defined by job responsibility or expectations, but more of a personalized leadership as described this way:
Being a “Leader” doesn’t mean having a fancy title or job description; it means taking ownership of situations – regardless of who is actually responsible for them – and then doing whatever possible to help out. Leadership is leaving things better than we find them, by working with people (and organizations) to help them become their very best; Leadership is not selfish – it makes the world a better place by helping others succeed. Leadership offers support – not criticism, cruel remarks or fear-mongering – whenever people “mess up”, and lends a helping hand to get them back on track. Leadership is kind, confident, influential and generous; in other words, LEADERSHIP is always about being a LEADER, regardless of position, situation and circumstance.
So the bottom line here is that “Leadership” is about helping people become their very best, both on and off the job. True leaders teach by example; however their lessons are selfless, giving and kind in nature and opposed to threats, “lines drawn in the sand” or cautionary tales. And to be honest, I can’t think of anyone who embodies the qualities of leadership than my old boss and mentor from. In keeping with the spirt of these posts, we’ll simply call him “Duty Manager”, and without further adieu, let me introduce you to this remarkable leader!
The first time I met “Duty Manager” I knew him to be someone who had a sense of respect for people; he briefly excused himself from a meeting he was having with a visiting Regional Manager to meet me, shake my hand and welcome me on board the team by saying “Hi, I’m Duty Manager”. This informal style wasn’t reserved for just his executive team, (of which I’d just become a member of) oh no – every single staff member, regardless of position, called him by his Christian name. Duty Manager believed everyone who worked at the hotel, or for the company as a whole – from the maids who clean the public areas to the CEO who runs the entire organization – all play important roles in it’s success, and each and every one of them deserves to be treated with respect. This was an idea he constantly reinforced; he taught us – his executive team – to never introduce a subordinate by saying “This person works FOR me” but rather “This person works WITH me”. It was this kind of respect and kindness that made Duty Manager such a terrific mentor and boss. As I remember, here’s what an average day looked like for him:
Duty Manager would arrive at the office around 8:30 a.m. and chime a cheerful “Good morning!” to his secretary as he hung up his coat. He’d immediately head off to the restaurant to grab his morning coffee, but not before promising to bring her back a cup of tea upon his return. What should have been a 1o minute trip usually took three quarters of an hour as he meandered the long way through each area of the hotel, greeting every single person he encountered by name with a warm “Hello” and asked them how they were doing. This daily jaunt wasn’t random, or by chance – Duty Manager knew this habit (which we referred to as “grazing”) kept him well connected to all members of staff. The last stop was always the restaurant where he’d exchange greetings and chatter with the serving staff, all of whom were eager to share with him what was going on in their lives. Duty Manager knew everyone by name and their personal stories- He was truly and genuinely interested in who they were beyond their job titles.
At 9:15 am sharp Duty Manger would go to the laundry room to attend the “Daily Briefing”, an informal managers meeting to discuss the day’s business, a meeting he insisted be held in the hotel laundry room so as not to create the air of importance, and allowed staff access to managers if needed. A junior manager would be assigned to run the 15 minute meeting, because Duty Manager believed this helped them develop public speaking and leadership skills. When they’d finish, he’d shake their hand and congratulate them on a great job in front of everyone, and then we’d get on with our duties. In his first hour each day Duty Manager communicated a strong and positive message to most every person in the hotel – and we were all very motivated to do a great job!
When meetings were more formal and dealt with serious issues, Duty Manager (as the General Manager) would take full responsibility for all problems that arose. He would listen to the situation carefully and ask for feedback from his managers before developing a plan. Once a plan had been devised, Duty Manager would make sure that he communicated clearly and concisely as he delegated tasks, offering support and guidance for those who required it. When meetings ended, everyone understood who was responsible for what tasks, and in what time frame. Even when the tasks were difficult, (such as discipline or dismissal issues) Duty Manager always listened to the facts first, before discussing with the managers the best course of action to be taken. Once a decision had been made and action taken, Duty Manager showed support; he also never bad-mouthed the person who was the subject of the actions, and insisted others follow suit. He didn’t want to continue to dwell on the negative, instead putting his (and our) focus on how to move forward in the business of running the best hotel possible.
If a staff member had a problem – either business or personal – Duty Manager was available to talk to; he’d simply invited them into his office, closed the door and listen to what they had to say. Once they were done, he would offer them his council. Under no circumstances would these personal matters be discussed with anyone else, outside the room. Duty Manager was 100% respectful of this, and knew to do such a thing would undermine the trust people had in him. He always showed complete integrity in such matters.
It’s also important to note that with business related issues/problems he would always ensure that staff followed the proper chain of command before speaking with him; respect for the hierarchy was important to him, and he didn’t want to unintentionally undermine his team members by speaking out of turn.
At the beginning of each month Duty Manager sent cards to staff who had a birthday that month, and often hosted a group luncheon for them. New hires were brought to his office so that he could personally welcome them to work, and he’d advise them of open door policy. On Dec. 25th he was known to stop by to thank everyone working that day; and one year he even invited a poor, pathetic single guy with no girlfriend or relatives in town to have Christmas Dinner with his family. You guessed it, I was that guy, and I really appreciated this gesture.
Staff baseball games, partied, picnics, employees selling raffle tickets for their children’s school – regardless of the situation, Duty Manager participated in one way or another. He wasn’t “just being nice” – he understood that these actions were a powerful way to communicate to the people whom he worked with day in and day out that they were important and mattered to him. He understood that by helping them be successful helped make him successful.
Upon learning of my son’s illness, Duty Manager made arrangements for me to take all the time off needed to cope with doctors, traveling, etc., while arranging a work schedule that allowed me to earn my full income; he arranged complimentary hotel rooms for me when I travelled, and when I had to quit the job to be with Tristan, he supported me in every possible way, including allowing us to stay with his family for a few days during a transitional period – a perfect example of what I mean when I talk about “Leadership” outside the workplace.
Duty Manager was, (and still is) a true leader, and these days he runs a large division of a global company – heck, if you were to Google his name, no shortage of links appear! And I’m proud not to just call him my mentor, but after all these years later, my good friend, and want to say “Thank You” for all he’s done for me, and my family.
I have to say that I learned a lot of lessons from both “Big Guy” and “Duty Manager”. I’ve examined their individual styles and approach to business, staff, co-workers, friends and customers and then applied what worked best for me and applied it. In the case of “Big Guy”, I really saw the ultimate long-term result of poor leadership, and the effects it had over time. It left bad feels and negativity all over the place. On the other hand using the pro-active things I learned from studying “Duty Manager”, I learned how to bring out the best in people, tackle projects and to really create a sense of fairness, respect and integrity in my life. And for that, I simply say… Thank You Doug.
Readers: Have you ever had a boss, manager or mentor who made a huge difference in your life or career? Please let us know in the comments below!