One of the most fulfilling aspects of my position as president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce is meeting candidates for each year's Leadership Carroll class.
I feel motivated to challenge myself to be a better leader after discussing leadership philosophy with them. Along with Marlene Titus, coordinator of the Miller Center for Small Business at Carroll Community College, I have the privilege of getting to know these outstanding Carroll County business leaders and listening to their various viewpoints concerning leadership and the leaders they admire.
I also come away with the renewed realization that leadership is both common and rare in the world of business. It's common that employees will identify the person in charge as the leader of their place of business. It's rare, however, that this person is truly an outstanding leader when viewed in light of the insightful observations of our Leadership Carroll attendees.
According to the Leadership Carroll Class of 2014, some characteristics present in outstanding leaders are:
A leader is there for the struggles and leads by example. Do you face the tough times with your people, or do you retreat to your closed door office with a company culture of "don't knock"?
A leader is willing to listen to opinions that differ from their own. Are you?
A leader possesses good listening skills, along with imagination, determination and a sense of humor. Do you welcome a new approach, or do you hold to the status quo? How much laughter do you hear in the workplace?
A leader mentors and encourages his/her people and doesn't just issue orders and point out where people have failed. Do you look for things done well so you can praise employees, or do you figure that's what they're paid to do and simply save your feedback for when someone's performance falls short?
A leader knows your strengths and works from them. Do you predominantly see the strengths of your people and build from there? Building from a person's strengths gives them the confidence to embrace their weaknesses and honestly deal with them. It helps to create innovative thinkers who help their company or organization grow and succeed.
I love the thought-provoking comments from the business professionals who attend the Leadership Carroll program. Their insights are inspiring. When asked who they most admire as a leader, we heard answers such as: Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson and Buck Showalter. We also heard close to 10 people list their father as the leader they most admire. It's eye-opening to realize the leaders we are most influenced by are the ones we grew up with. For those of us with children, it suddenly elevates us into the realization that we hold a very critical leadership role as a parent.
Effective leadership takes determined, patient work, but it's worth the effort.
In my next column, I will give a brief overview of Leadership Carroll, which is now celebrating its 23rd year in Carroll County.