I recently told a dear friend that good leaders were people who put their hearts into something and made a difference. With that in mind you cannot be a successful leader being passive or doing just enough to get by. You may be able to hold a job for 20 years doing so, but you can never claim to be a good leader.
People remember leaders that make an impact within their organization or society. People also remember those that fail terribly. No one remembers the middle of the road folks that stayed the course, made no changes, and kept the train on the track. That train may have run backwards at times, but it continued running, nonetheless.
Maybe it is my age or upbringing that prevents me from settling on ordinary. I am from that generation whose parents walked uphill in the snow both ways to school. Maybe that describes your grandparents or some of you have no idea what I am talking about. Those of us that lived with and learned from “The Greatest Generation” have a different set of ideas and concepts branded on our hearts. By the way, a book by the same title is a tremendous read. My intent is not to disparage the X’s, Y’s, Z’s, and millennials. Different times create different beliefs and ethics. This is most certainly a glass house and stones thing on my part.
Not everyone is cut out to be the “above the radar” type of person. The limelight can be bright and a frightening place to be. Leaders can still excel without being a William Wallace (Mel Gibson in Braveheart) kind of person. While there are battles to be fought in the printing world, few involve swords and massive armies.
So how do we elevate from an ordinary leader to one that people remember? To me it must start with your heart. You must love what you do, care deeply about the people you lead, and never ever be afraid to do what is right and necessary. You cannot shy away from hard decisions. You must deal with personnel fairly and equitably. You must be consistent with your decision-making process. People need to trust that you will do the right thing with the best interest of the organization in mind. Many times, the best interest conflicts with people and processes. Layoffs created by the pandemic is a perfect example. Your employees do not have to love you, but they must respect you. Respect is earned, never forget that.
The key to all of this is to be faithful to yourself and always trust the love that you have for your chosen vocation which will lead you to the best decisions. Without the head-heart connection the noise that surrounds us makes it difficult to filter down to what is important. This is not to say you should never seek counsel, because that is an important part of good leadership. Identifying others that share your drive is important. More to the point, finding others that are not afraid to offer up differing opinions is critical. While we would like to believe that we are all seeing and all knowing, we are neither of those. People that fail terribly tend to have this misguided belief. A past President of mine said “leaders lead.” What he meant by that was he expected us to get out front, take the lead and not be afraid to do so. He followed that up with, “if you cannot do this, then why do I need you?” That my friends is an attention getter and one that a good leader can and should take to heart.
John Sarantakos, Director
University of Oklahoma Printing and Mailing Services
CGCM and Franklin Stamp and Ink Society member