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Muddy Boots Basics

Posted by Dave Griffith on May 21, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to an assembled group of leaders of family businesses sponsored by the Delaware Valley Family Business Center. They asked me to share my perspective, aka scar tissue, on the attributes of leadership observed over my years in business and my service as a board chair with privately held for profit organizations.


I shared five core attributes.


Muddy Boots. Leaders who put on their Muddy Boots and go into the field and listen to the answers to two questions. How are we doing? What can we do better? Leaders do not manager the business from behind a desk. The listen to customers, competitors, employees, thought leaders, educators, to the people closest to the work. They seek outside advice and perspective.


Time. They are intentional with their time. "They do the important, not the urgent." They carve out think time. They are curious. They find the pain and fix it. They invest in learning and talking with contrainians. They think not in the present but three to five years out.


Elephants. They create environments where it is safe to name the elephants. They focus on the hiring and the care and feeding of talent. They work to be the dumbest person in subject matter areas. They understand that a bunch of talented people are more valuable than one individual telling people what to do. The world needs inventors and implementers. They understand that inclusion is a seat at the table and that the bigger the table the better the decisions.


Personal Brand. People know what they stand for. They live their mission, their vision, and their values. People understand what is there North Star. The are consistent. They are both firm and calm. They run to the fire, not away from it. People want to work for them. They care more about other people's success than their own. They put their crew first and their crew knows it.


Balance. They understand that while focus is important, so too is balance. They understand that shareholders are not the only stakeholder, but so too is family and community, employees, vendors and customers. They understand and act that they are part of a much larger system and that we all carry the responsibility to pay it forward. They do not put greed ahead of grandchildren.


In the end leadership can be summed up in the concept of legacy. True leadership understands that it is never about them. Rather it is about the organization they lead and the people they serve. They understand that old african proverb that "to go fast, go alone, but to to far, go together." Leaders pull the rope, they don't push it. They understand that personal achievement and economic security is a function of stakeholder service.


All of your stakeholders. Especially your future ones.


Categories: Muddy Boots, Leadership, Griffith Thoughts

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