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Leadership is Action, Not Position

While visiting Florida I had the opportunity to visit the Bok Tower Gardens and recently began reading the Kindle Edition of Edward Bok’s autobiography titled The Americanization of Edward Bok.  It was in the gift shop, however I also found it in The Pulitzer Prize Collection (13 Books).  While I have only read the first couple of chapters, i was reminded time and time again of my favorite quote: “Leadership is action; not position” by Donald H. McGanno.

In his biography, Bok tells the story of how his grandfather, selected by King William to clean up an island in the North Sea where residents killed the crews of wrecked ships so they could take and use what was on the damaged ships.  After becoming mayor, his grandfather, in is twenties, established a court of law and suggested that his government plant trees to beautify the island.  When the council objected, he planted the trees himself, eventually beautifying the island and attracting wildlife, researchers, and artists.  The chapter goes on to say that when his Grandmother told the story to Bok’s father, she told them to “Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been in it.”  There are many examples in just the two chapters I have read and if I covered them all here you would stop reading this post (if you haven’t already), but suffice it to say that Bok did just that by establishing to Bok Tower Gardens sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida after falling in love with the beauty of the area.  In a way, he did the same thing his grandfather did in the Netherlands because the sanctuary draws researchers, tourists, and volunteers from all over the world.

Not many people that I have spoken to know of Donald McGannon.  He was President of Westinghouse Broadcasting, the broadcast division of Westinghouse Electric that eventually became Group W and CBS.  He refused to accept cigarette advertising and was an advocate for social responsibility in broadcasting, was an advocate for social responsibility in broadcasting while using his position to influence regulations and standards, returning a part of the prime-time schedule to local stations and creating his own standards for copy writing and editing.  His actions still influence the industry today.

If you are like me, you have had a manager or leader in an organization who did not appear to do anything, spending a lot of time out of the office or working with their door closed.  They might check in once in a while to see how things were going, but usually did not provide direction, coaching, or encouragement.  I am a firm believe that a manager has many roles, but chief among them are understanding what their team faces on a daily basis, communicating business goals to the team, and connecting with team members to help them advance in their career.  If they do not do these things, the team will not be successful and neither will they.

Leadership is action, not position.  How do you manage your team?

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June 30, 2010  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Self Improvement