In working with my clients, I am frequently asked 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 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. I actually found a photo of my grandfather at approximately my age and have it beside my desk. Fortunately, I can still call my father to get advice. In the business realm, I have my first career boss, Jim Shumate and my third boss, Steve Bentley as my icons. While neither perfect, I constantly hear the advice offered to me when I encounter a challenge.
On a related note, two key icons in my indirect leadership role model list passed recently. The world will sorely miss Dr. Steven Covey. I am honored to have once spoken at a conference he keynoted which gave me the opportunity to meet him personally. Fortunately, we have his extensive written works to continue to provide guidance.
The second great loss for me recently was the humble sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith). Yes, he is a character in an old sitcom. But perhaps it our common rural North Carolina back ground that biases me, but I see a brilliant leader in those black and white reruns. I particularly admire his calmness, sense of humor and dignity that he continuously displayed.
Who constitutes your leadership icons? Are they still accessible? What advice or example did they provide? 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 Sheriff Taylor, Dr. Covey, Steve, Jim, my granddad, and father for being my leadership role models. I continue to honor and use your advice.
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 over 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