Reflection on a Leader

“I always focused on the money, I didn’t start thinking about who I wanted to work for/with, until I worked at a business with multiple leaders and a true team based ethos.” – Me

I spent some time with a good friend and former colleague this weekend, while delivering wedding invites. Every aspect of the conversation made me feel good, it was all positive from the initial handshake to getting kicked out. It’s not often I say that, maybe a handful of people I’ve met through my life have motivated me in this way.

On the way home I was thinking about how great it was just to sit and talk with a like minded individual. So much so that it made me think about the people I’ve met through my life who have had a real impact on me.
Firstly lets get the obvious people out of the way.

My Mother -A single mum of two who worked her way from the shop floor to being a high level executive. This was through hard work, determination and not realising how good she actually was, I worked for her twice and along side her once. As you can expect some of my best learning experiences, both work and life, have been with this person.

My Dad – Always there no matter the weather, a tireless grafter, always happy to be working but will also do anything for anyone, anytime regardless of the cost to himself. I’ve tried to work with him at a couple of companies, never actually able to make that happen unfortunately.

My soon to be wife – She never knew what hit her the first day we worked together. I asked her on a date almost immediately, she said yes, soon to be followed by a no and an absurd excuse for why. This became our thing, on Monday I’d ask her out, on Tuesday there would be an excuse, “I’m out on a girls night”, “I’m making a cake this weekend” and probably my favourite “my son needs his hair brushing”, that’s right, not cutting but brushing, at the time he had a number 2 cut, which is short. It took 4 years and me moving to another country (only Wales but it sets the scene) for her to come to her senses and allow me to be part of her life.

Friends – I keep a tight circle maybe 3-5 close friends, they will always be there and some extras that circle in and out of the friend pool.

All of the above have added to the person I am on both a human and professional level.

Everyone has the above, maybe not a mother but someone who is a motherly figure, maybe not a dad but that male role model. Not everyone has great experiences with these people, I’m lucky, but they are there always influencing you, good or bad, if they are in the room or half a world away.

Now back to the person in question, let’s call him Martin. He’s one of those people that you gravitate to, confident, loud but humble with it. When I first met him, and his mentor, I was a design engineer, young (ish) and enthusiastic. I didn’t work for him but I could see myself doing so, able to make you think about a situation from a different angle with a single sentence. He knew how to build a great team, you could just tell, the guys and girls working for him just knew he had their back but he’d also give them a talking to if things weren’t going the right way.

Martin told me the business he’s at now has just won a lean award, unthinkable 12-18 months ago. Not once did he mention his involvement, it was all “we, the team, other individuals” although I know he will have orchestrated it all in the background. Not like a puppeteer pulling all of the strings, but by building his team from the bottom up, leading the way in the right direction and most of all putting the right people in the right place at the right time.

I went through a rough time recently, on a professional level, which made me think about the type of person I wanted to work for. I read a lot about leadership, I follow leaders on Twitter and through LinkedIn. I think I know what makes a good leader and what makes a great one. As a former manager once told me “there’s nowt as queer as folk” so what works for me may not work for you.

I’m going to list some traits that rank highly for me.

1) They live what they say, if they say we’re lean, then that’s what happens, not lean when it suits.

2) They are visible. Not stuck in an office.

3) They train people. Sharpening the tools, little and often.

4) They are confident. Who would follow someone who isn’t?

5) They make you confident. Sharing the love.

6) They understand that everything is a process. You build a house brick by brick, not all at once.

7) They see the positive in change.

These are a few traits, the ones I look for, there are too many to list.

There are only four managers I’ve worked with in the past that I would love to work with again and one who I’d rather never see again. I’m going to leave you with some of their quotes. I’ll let you decide which is the one.

“We all have choices”

“If you budget for it and your budget is signed off, spend it, or better yet don’t and look like a hero.”

“Everything is a process”

“I’ve told you once, don’t f@&#ing ask again, d@&#head.”

“If you’ve not budgeted for it, make sure I can’t say no.”

“In data we trust, for everything else there’s God”

“If you turn up every day just for the money, you will fail”

Can you guess which one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy?

I’m parraphrasing here, but all of the four great leaders I’ve worked with have all said something like this “Sometimes you feel like a crazy person getting on the train to Manchester, everyone else is trying to board to London, you can’t drag them with you, you have to confidently take the first step and see who cottons on, the people still going to London at boarding time, well that’s another story”

I could write a book on the people that have influenced me, in fact I may at some point. I just like to thank them all for making me the person I am.

I will write more on this subject in the future. Good managers, bad managers, leaders, teams, colleagues, people, processes, these subjects fascinate me.

If you have any suggestions, questions or comments please leave them below, I’ll aim to answer every one.

3 thoughts on “Reflection on a Leader

Add yours

  1. Hi John,
    A very nice insight and experience that you have shared. I used to ponder about how to overcome team building obstacles and work towards it..and Voila your post brought a lot of clarity in my thinking

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rohit,
      It’s one of those things that seems easy but to do it right you have to have a special kind of someone. I’ve been fortunate in knowing a few of these types of people.

      If you have any suggestions for my future posts don’t hesitate to get in touch.




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