Leading from the Front

Good Managers Bring the Team with Them

By Margaret Vaughan

Watching the current 2020 presidential election campaigns in the U.S. gives us an opportunity to evaluate those persons who think they are the right individual to lead this country.

It is to be hoped that a true leader will eventually emerge from the pack, but right now their bellowing, chest-pounding, finger-pointing and ephemeral policies make them seem more like carnival barkers on the Coney Island Midway than serious contenders for the highest office of the U.S. Their objective is, of course, to get you to their booth where you are assured of easy winnings. That isn’t leadership. It’s simply political pandering.

One of the reasons that NapolĂ©on Bonaparte was so successful in his military career was that he was in the front line of his soldiers. He led from the front, not from the rear or at a safe distance. Leadership is about putting yourself in front; having a vision and making that vision a reality. It’s about putting the needs of those you lead ahead of yourself. It’s about making your people the best that they can be and training them to take over your job. It’s about serving them and not the other way around. And it’s about making hard choices and living with the results of those choices. It’s not about taking credit for other people’s work or throwing them under the bus if your directives go sour. It’s about having integrity; about being true to your word; about firmly adhering to a moral code. It’s about being the person your dog thinks you are (my dog thinks I’m great, by the way).

I was fortunate to work for a man named Bill Kiely Sr. who was the finest business leader I have known. Kiely cared deeply for his employees and spent time with each of us individually at least once a month to inquire about our personal and professional lives.

When the company fell on tenuous times, he and the other owners paid the employees out of their own pockets. And when the company was sold, Kiely negotiated a sweetheart deal for the employees ensuring our continued tenure, future financial security, and yearly bonuses.

Kiely understood that in business it’s the people who are important and not the product. He knew that our success made the company’s success possible.

Today, too many managers seem to want the kudos but not the cudgels. They want to reap the rewards, but not accept culpability for failure. Harry Truman famously said: “The buck stops here.”

A good manager gives their people the tools, empowers them to make decisions, is available to assist where necessary, and stands firmly behind them when needed. A good manager is one whose people feel valued and appreciated and want to work for them. A good manager serves.  

Margaret J. Vaughan has more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of supply chain management, serving most recently as logistics manager for Wood PLC where she worked for 12 years.

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