A Goal for All Managers

Text "a goal for all managers" with a photo of a young female manager

Of course there is no such thing as the perfect manager, but a woman I met recently may come close.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It is said these sage words spoken by Mahatma Gandhi have become the most repeated quote in the English language.

I could not help but think of this quote as I recently listened to a group of senior executives describe their boss, the CEO.

I have read many papers and books on leadership and the quintessential leadership traits and, I must tell you, as I listened to the glowing comments, it was almost as if they were describing the perfect manager.

The CEO of this company had been at the helm for slightly more than a year; she had been recruited by the Board of Directors upon the retirement of her predecessor and selected from a long list of potential candidates.

Several of the executives were opposed to her even before she assumed her new role as they felt the Board of Directors should have promoted one of them to this position.

Consequently, when their new boss reported for duty, she was met by a group of less than passionate executives.

It didn’t, however, take long before she had won them all over and, at the time of our meeting a year later, they had become enthusiastic followers and supporters.

The Perfect Manager?

So, what exactly was it about this lady that had allowed her to convert antagonists into fervent followers? Hint: being charismatic and visionary will only get you so far.

I asked this question and was inundated with a myriad of reasons.

Her executive team eagerly described those traits they found most endearing. They talked of her enthusiasm for innovation, her obvious passion for growth, her willingness to explore possibilities, her openness to opposing and diverse viewpoints, and her undying conviction that the way to bring out the very best in people is to help them to believe in themselves.

She never asked anyone to do anything she would not do herself and most often modelled the very behaviours she expected from others. She worked harder than anyone else, was in earlier and left later than any of her colleagues. She single-handedly raised the bar on organizational excellence.

When things went wrong, as they inevitably will, she was unflinching in her determination to find resolution and to turn adversity into opportunity.

She believed strongly that leaders lead from the front and no task was beneath her.

If she saw a piece of garbage on the floor she would pick it up and dispose of it and, rightly so, expected the same from others.

She ignored her reserved parking stall (the one closest to the entrance), instead letting it be known that space was reserved for whoever was first to arrive each day. Unbeknownst to many, on those days – several times each week – being the first to arrive, she ignored the spot and parked at the far end of the lot.

She set high expectations for her executive and, in turn, demanded they do the same with their folks.

Needless to say, she demanded more of herself than of anyone else.

She dealt immediately with all good things that needed to be dealt with and never shied away from addressing conflict when necessary.

She lavishly praised those who performed well and immediately addressed the behaviour and provided correction to those who didn’t.

Leading By Example

Her message to the entire organization was that leadership does not come from rank or title but from spirit, commitment, dedication and behaviour. Her actions consistently demonstrated to every employee what true leadership is, and how they could each enhance their own leadership capabilities.

While this may all sound too good to be true, perhaps most importantly, she taught her executive team to dream and to understand the only limitations to growth and success were the ones that existed in their own minds.

And by her daily modelling of exceptional leadership behaviors, she coached each of her executives how to find and become their very best selves. It should come as no surprise her leadership propelled the company to the very best year in its 25-year history.

Perhaps her greatest value, though, can't be measured on a balance sheet. She made her direct reports want to come to work every day, something to which all managers can aspire.

Till we read again.

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