Today, February 20, is National Leadership Day. According to National Day website, "The aim of National Leadership Day is to inculcate the values of leadership in each one of us. A good leader not only leads but inspires those around him/her/they to be the best versions of themselves. Anyone can be a leader — you just have to show up and encourage others to do the same...On this day, businesses across America organize leadership workshops to get more people into leadership roles. We know that an organization is only as good as its leaders, which means that having empathetic and just leaders at the top who lead by example creates an environment in which everyone is inspired to be their best. This improves productivity and makes the workplace truly wonderful."
Whenever I think about leadership and its impact on the employee experience, I think about Eric Jacobson. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog four times as a featured guest and countless times with memorable quotes. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. His passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire.
Today is an especially appropriate day for Eric to appear on my blog. Our conversation centered around leadership inspiration, and highlights follow below. Links to previous Q&A posts featuring Eric are provided at the end of this post. Be sure to check out Eric's Blog (https://ericjacobsononmanagement.blogspot.com/) and follow him on Twitter @EricJacobsonKC.
QUESTION: I asked you this question back in 2011, and I’m curious if your answer has changed: What companies do you admire for their overall leadership and customer service?
Eric Jacobson: My answer has changed in that I don’t know first-hand much about current leadership at all that many companies. So, I’ll answer this way: I admire companies where leaders practice and/or abide by the following:
* Being a good communicator: That means effectively communicating promptly and consistent messages during good and bad times and knowing how and when to be a good listener. Communicating is critical. Employees must hear from their leaders, and, hearing from their leaders in person versus email and written memos is much more effective.
* Being a servant leader: Put your employees and your company first. A senior-level leader who makes self-serving decisions will lack followers and bring the company down.
* Being adaptable: Today, more than ever, a leader needs to be able to adapt. That means being able to adapt to competitive and industry situations. It also means being willing to change your decisions if new information or circumstances warrant the change.
* Being decisive: Leaders who are not decisive and who cannot make a decision will spin their organization into a frozen state where employees are unmotivated, discouraged, and frustrated.
* Being motivational: Smart, decisive, engaging, tough yet fair, personable, and encouraging leaders are motivating. These leaders motivate employees to deliver their best for their leaders and their companies.
Rounding out my answer is that I admire Marriott for its customer service. This July 17, 2022 article from Forbes by Shep Hyken (@hyken on Twitter - who incidentally, has also appeared here on my blog a few times) sums up Marriott’s winning approach to customer service:
Marriott delivers excellent customer service by following these practices (further described within the Forbes article):
* The fundamentals of customer service happen one person at a time.
* Understand your customers: understanding starts with listening.
* Mistakes handled well can create a stronger bond.
* Embrace the digital customer experience.
* Employees must be empowered to take care of customers.
QUESTION: Many people believe that leadership is only possible with a title. But there are many ways to lead and be a leader. Can you explain some?
Eric Jacobson: You definitely don’t need to have a leadership title to be a leader. Here are 30 ways to be a good leader at work or away from work. The more of these you do, the stronger a leader you become:
1. Build trust with your colleagues.
2. Be courageous, quick, and fair.
3. Constantly challenge your team to do better.
4. Celebrate your employees' successes, not your own.
5. Communicate clearly and often.
6. View every problem as an opportunity to grow.
7. Summarize group consensus after each decision point during a meeting.
8. Praise when compliments are earned.
9. Be decisive.
10. Say "thank you" and sincerely mean it.
11. Teach something new to your team.
12. Show respect for all team members.
13. Follow through when you promise to do something.
14. Respond to questions quickly and fully.
15. Give credit where credit is due.
16. Take an interest in your employees and their personal milestone events.
17. Mix praise with constructive feedback for how to make improvement.
18. Foster mutual commitment
19. Admit your mistakes.
20. Show trust.
21. Encourage individualism and welcome input.
22. Be willing to change your decisions.
23. Be a good role model.
24. Be humble.
25. End every meeting with a follow-up To Do list.
26. Explain the process and the reason for the decisions you make.
27. Encourage personal growth and promote training, mentoring, and external education.
28. Seek guidance when you don't have the answer.
29. Don't interrupt.
30. Ask questions to clarify.
QUESTION: What inspiring leadership books have you read recently?
Eric Jacobson: A very inspiring leadership book I’ve read recently is Compassionate Leadership: How to Do Hard Things in a Human Way by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. This book is timely and compelling.
A favorite key leadership takeaway from the book is where Hougaard and Carter explain how to unlearn management and relearn being human. That entails:
* Remembering the Golden Rule.
* Putting yourself in their shoes.
* Listening intensively.
* Always giving more than you take.
* Asking yourself, How can I be of benefit?
* Stretching people to help them see their greater potential.
* Helping people to see what they really need to be happy.
Another favorite recent read is, Leading with Heart, by John Baird and Edward Sullivan. They share that heart-led companies have:
* Lower turnover.
* Decentralized decision-making.
* Healthy and constructive creative conflict.
* Rigorous debate and truth-seeking in meetings.
* Strategic alignment.
* Sharing of resources to support company goals.
* Seamless flow of crucial information leading to early problem detection.
And, for a different perspective on where to learn leadership lessons, check out Joseph Lalonde’s book, Reel Leadership. He delves into the leaderships lessons one can find in movies. First, he sets the stage by chronicling the history of film, the history of leadership, and the science of learning, and then he shares some of the best leadership lessons from his vast catalogue of movie watching through the years. If you are a movie buff and hungry for leadership lessons, this is a quick, entertaining, educational read.
QUESTION: If you could dine with any three leaders - from history or business - who would they be, and why?
Eric Jacobson: I would like to have dined with Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou from history and Herbert Kelleher from business.
I would want to learn so much for Nelson Mandela about his years in prison, his passion for activism, and all about his philosophy on leadership. It’s his leadership quotes like these that I find inspiring, and I feel I could have learned much from him:
* "Lead from the back - and let others believe they are in front."
* "The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall."
* "It always seems impossible until it's done."
* "I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles."
* "I've learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
* "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
Maya Angelou: I find equally inspiring and imagine I would have learned a lot from her while dinning together. Through her long and extensive career that included poetry, plays, screenplays for television and film, directing, acting, and public speaking, she certainly learned much that I would be interested in hearing more about. Furthermore, she was authentic, dignified, courageous, and enduring – often a voice of reason, and a leader with many lessons and experiences worth hearing about.
From business, I always wanted to meet Herbert Kelleher. He was the co-founder, later CEO, and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines until his death in 2019. In general, Southwest and its company culture have always intrigued me. From what I’ve read, Herbert (Herb) was a strong, visible, caring leader that shaped a culture that set Southwest apart from many other air carriers and many businesses overall. Under his leadership, Southwest has consistently been named among the most admired companies in America in Fortune magazine’s annual poll. He helped create a corporate culture which made Southwest employees well known for taking themselves lightly but their jobs seriously.
SHARE THIS: Lead from the back - and let others believe they are in front. ~Nelson Mandela via @EricJacobsonKC #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: Erika Andersen, a leadership expert and author, wrote, "Great leaders don't do it alone...they get help." What does this quote mean to you?
Eric Jacobson: I believe this quote means great leaders seek honest and open feedback and then use that input to become better leaders. In addition, great leaders know that they must rely on their teams to achieve optimum performance and results. That means being a leader that:
* Does not micromanage.
* Is not a bottleneck.
* Focuses more on outcomes, not minutiae.
* Allows prudent autonomy.
* Talks more about values than rules.
* And, most importantly, develops new leaders.
SHARE THIS: Great leaders seek honest and open feedback and then use that input to become better leaders. ~@EricJacobsonKC from quote by @ErikaAndersen #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog
My thanks to Eric for once again appearing on my blog and sharing his amazing insights for effective leadership and successful employee experiences.
Lastly, check out the links to Eric's previous Q&A appearances on my blog.
How Leadership Crafts the #EmployeeExperience
May 1, 2018
Leadership Doesn't Have to Be Hard
May 3, 2016
The Importance of Mentorships
March 11, 2013
The Importance of Training, Customer Connections and Leadership
March 21, 2011
Image Credit: Southwest Airlines.