My father owned and managed a plumbing and heating contracting business in Montreal for forty years. The knowledge of how to operate a successful business was one of the many life skills he gave me. Most importantly, he provided me with a leadership model that has served me well in business.
Wear the Attire of Authority
Father never owned a pair of jeans, a bomber jacket, or a baseball cap. Every day he wore a three-piece suit to work, a well-starched white shirt, and a tie. He was always impeccably dressed with great attention to detail. For example, he adorned his tie with a modest pearl stickpin. In his lapel pocket was a white handkerchief. He never left the house without his shoes shined, a homburg on his head, and a flower in his lapel. He had a crisp look. His attire stood for authority and “the quality of the man”.
Have an Affinity for Every Person
He had an affinity for the working person, particularly those with families. It was not out of the ordinary, when he was on a job site, to stride with purpose over to one of his men to ask how a child was recovering from an illness or how a son or daughter was doing in school.
Surround Yourself with Accomplished People
My Father surrounded himself with people who were excellent craftsmen. He had little respect for those who did shoddy work. He set high performance standards and demanded excellence. A job site visit was an opportunity to raise standards and ensure the promised value was delivered to the building owner.
He was intellectually curious. He was knowledgeable, cultured, and well read. To make a point, he might recite a few lines of poetry or quote his pen pal George Bernard Shaw. In all matters he had the disposition to seek the truth and the judgment to determine and take the appropriate action- he had wisdom.
Speak the Language of Leadership
He was an accomplished public speaker. At AA meetings around the world, he communicated his experience in stories aimed to encourage, motivate, and inspire others to deal with their addiction. He spoke the language of leadership.
He was a disciplined person. He embarked on a goal with an ardour that far exceeded any moderation. Nothing could deter him from his ambition. On my Sister’s advice, he quit a three-pack-a-day addiction, “cold turkey”. He never smoked again. He had self-control.
Never Forget to Say Thank You
He was polite and courteous at all times. He never forgot to thank the wives of his employees for the sacrifices they made when he called upon their husbands to work overtime or in dangerous conditions. He would pen a handwritten thank-you note to the homemaker and send her an appropriate small gift.
No Baseball Caps
I was recently in an upscale Toronto restaurant where a well-attired server in her late-20s noted I had shined shoes and pressed pants. She went on to say, “Today's young men dress like slobs”. To cement her opinion, she said, “They do not respect themselves or others, it shows in their dress. They wear baseball caps at dinner.”
Dad retired to Florida. When I visited him, he would comment that his retired friends lacked intellectual curiosity, were boring, soul-destroying business executives. As if to brand them as ineffectual, he would end his rant by saying, “You know they wear baseball caps.”
May I hear from you!
Did you pattern your leadership model on that of another person? If so, please tell us your story of how that came about.
What for you is the essence of leadership?