In 1982 a couple of songwriters in Nashville, wrote one of the most performed songs of all time, Wind Beneath My Wings in one sitting. Performed by over a dozen artists this song speaks to a universal need to have, and to recognize heroes in our lives. Watching my son, his play often revolves around pretending to be a hero ranging from Captain America and Thor to Han Solo. In fact, his request for this summer was to visit a monument to heroes, Mount Rushmore. Clearly, having heroes in our lives is a strong, common psychological need. But how can heroes help my business?
Our national heroes give us guidance on many ethics used in our day to day life. On Rushmore, Washington was chosen not only because he was our first president, but because he is the symbol of honesty, humility and leadership. Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence is honored for his belief in liberty. Lincoln, who saved the Union, is honored for his belief in freedom and equality for all. Teddy Roosevelt, the youngest to ever serve as President, was the first to serve in the 20th century and represented optimism and the future.
Business Leaders are frequently perplexed about how they should approach leadership challenges. Often these are related to interpersonal conflicts or difficult issues that their team expects them to have THE answer. I advise them to think about their favorite leader and ask how that person would solve it. In most cases, we have already established who their leadership icons are and they have posted a photo or other image of that person at their desk.
I am not suggesting just noble distant icons like Thomas Jefferson, Aristotle or honored religious or political leaders. While great to emulate, I press them to come up with someone in their life. Someone they know personally and who have made an impression on them. This strengthens the direct application for the self advice they draw from the question, What would they do?
For example, in my pantheon of leadership icons, I have my father and grandfather and have their pictures looking over my shoulder as I work at my desk. Unfortunately, while I can no longer pick up the phone and call them I do remember their styles and advice when facing key issues. In the business realm, I have my first boss Jim Grady, my first career boss Jim Shumate and my third boss, Steve Bentley as my icons. I remember Mr. Grady’s focus on dependability and customer service as I delivered newspapers. Mr. Shumate taught me about competency and putting things in perspective. Mr. Bentley taught me about communication and preparedness. While they were not perfect, I constantly recall the advice offered to me when I worked for them.
Who constitutes your leadership icons? Are they still accessible? What advice or example did they provide? Do they know they are your heroes? Have you ever written them a note thanking them for the advice they continue to give? If not, I recommend you do so. Thank you to my leadership role models and the Wind Beneath my Wings. I continue to honor and use your advice. I recommend strongly you find your heroes and call on them often.
Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at www.theHRGuy.biz