I started at Shamrock as one of the team. (And while I still like to think of myself as a team member, the reality is I am here to lead.) As a leader, part of my job is to create. A vision. A portrait of the future.
As the leader / artist, my job is to paint a picture that is simple for everyone to grasp. That means I must have a consistent message, so that when other people in the company repeat the message I’ve crafted, it conjures up the same picture, the same vision for everyone else. (This is not as easy as it sounds!)
For example, we started out as a forms management company and print distributor. As the world became more digital, our traditional business model also needed to be transformed, or we would become dinosaurs stuck in the murky swamp of the past. So I and my senior management team made a digital transformation that includes providing customers with 21st century marketing concepts like web, mobile phone, and print on demand marketing.
Was this new direction a walk in the park? Heck no! It was scary to transform what was comfortable. But then there’s that unequivocal tipping point, when you clearly know it’s now or never (and “never” was never an option). And at that point a leader becomes creative and paints a picture that everyone can buy into. Even if I was a bit scared, I knew I had to appear confident and clear in my goals for a new Shamrock. I knew it was time to unveil a new vision that was clear and easy for everyone to see, regardless of where they stood to view the picture.
How does a leader do this? First, she or he needs to be absolutely genuine. The artist has to have a clear picture of his beliefs and values. In other words, I knew I would have to lead with well-planned actions and words to gain the confidence of my troops.
Second, the leader / artist has to stick with the most important themes that shape the vision. I picked the three most important themes that helped Shamrock grow in the first place: the best quality, a great product and excellent customer service. These themes would never change, regardless of how important advanced technology becomes for our business model. They were cast in bronze and polished until they were smooth and free of the slightest blemish.
I believe the one true hallmark of good leaders is that they can paint a picture quickly. They know what’s important. They communicate their vision really well. And they’re not arrogant, because they’ve seen the rough spots and they’ve been diligent about polishing them until they were gone.