By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to stay grounded in dealing with others. Reading time: 2:56
No matter how high Harry Warner climbed on the corporate ladder –from the pioneering leader in the film industry to the president of Warner Brothers for more than 20 years — Harry Warner never forgot his roots.
In fact he never figuratively slipped out of his old shoes no matter how well-heeled he had become.
Walking along the studio’s streets, Harry Warner would habitually pick up nails he found and pop them in his mouth — just like he did as a boy working in his dad’s shoe-making shop.
Indeed, you are what you are no matter where you are. That’s why the most effective leaders keep it real, especially when they become a big deal.
That’s what Zachary Taylor did. The President of the United States brought his frontier background into the Oval office in 1849. He wore baggy clothes and a tall hat pushed back on the top of his head. He loved to chew tobacco and his wife smoked a corn cob pipe.
Indeed, you are what you are no matter where you are.
You Are What You Are
Leaders keep it real, especially when they become a big deal.
That’s what General George Patton did. He lived in a palace shortly after conquering Casablanca on November 11, 1942. “I feel like a sultan,” Patton said of his luxurious life. But Patton was not happy. “I am a fighter,” he said. “I wish I could go out and kill someone!”
George Patton, like all effective leaders, kept in touch. With himself. After all, leaders must first connect with themselves –authentically, personally, poignantly– before they can lead others. As author John R. Diekman observes in his book Human Connections:
The person who is moving in the direction
of effectiveness is tuned into his own self.
He is in touch with what his insides are telling him.
If he is feeling something in the pit of his stomach
he knows about it in his head.
He is aware of the whole of his inner life
— what he is feeling, what he is thinking
and what he is wanting.”
No Matter Where You Are
General Patton was wanting. He knew you can take the man out of the war but not the war out of the man. He knew where he came from and where he needed to be. That’s what made Patton an effective leader. He was grounded in who he was. He was down to earth long before he was up to the task.
Being down to earth may be the most influential skill of a leader. People respond more fully when a leader is grounded. People are also apt to be even more productive for a down-to-earth leader. At least that’s the way one employee describes his leader, his boss (a hotel General Manager) in Jon Katzenbach’s book Peak Performance.
“Robert is down to earth;
he talks to you as a person not an employee.
He’s a true gentleman.
He treats everyone well not just the senior managers.
He makes you want to please him
and make the hotel better for him.
You can’t fake this kind of concern for people.”
How do you step into those leadership shoes that seemingly walk on water? Live. Authentically. Be real. Be human.
“To get to the top–and stay there—you need to be able to lead human beings,” writes David D’Alessandro the former CEO of John Hancock Financial Services in his book Executive Warfare: “And, the only way to learn how to lead is to live.”
Live in the real world. Personally. Even with shoe nails in your mouth. No matter where you are.
Stay grounded to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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