2007 Winter/Spring Volume 7 No. 1

How to Develop World-Class Leaders in Your Organization and Why You Need Them

By Mike Adams, Managing Director

When Ed Cooper and his two partners started PolyJohn nearly 30 years ago, it was a small company with only a few employees. PolyJohn was a family business about the size of many of our own customers’ companies today.

You might think a startup company with only a few employees doesn’t need leaders. Ed, thought differently, he always found and hired people with natural leadership ability and encouraged them to develop their leadership skills further.

Today, most of the people Ed hired decades ago are still with the company leading divisions of our world-class operation. I don’t know if he ever thought his company would grow to be internationally successful, but he started with the best people he could find. Then he encouraged them to lead, taking on new responsibilities as the company grew. That very early decision to hire leaders was what made much of his success possible.

Leadership is a fundamental skill that companies of all sizes need for all their employees—not just the owner(s). You have heard the old sayings, “too many chefs spoil the broth,” or “too many chiefs, not enough Indians.” These sayings point to a popular misconception that a group only needs one leader or chaos will result.

However, I believe the notion that a group only needs one leader is fundamentally false.


There is another old saying that every company needs to consider, “Cut off the head and the snake dies.” Coaches and generals will tell you that they want as many leaders in the field as they can find. Otherwise, if the main leader goes down, the group falls apart and doesn’t know what to do.

Consider your employees:
• Would they know what to do and how to run the business, if you got sick or injured? If not, what would that mean for you and your family?
• Can you trust the people you have now to help customers and solve their problems without you telling them what to do and how to do it?
• Do you have people working for you now who can step up to lead another company if you decide to grow through the acquisition of a competitor or expand to another market area?
• What if you want to retire or start another business venture, would the people you have working for you today be able to run the show in your absence?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, the potential for your business to grow is certainly being held back by a lack of leadership.

Any company is setting itself up to fail if it isn’t developing replacements for its top leaders. You can't start cultivating senior leaders at the last moment, just like you can't start cultivating a garden the day before you want to harvest.


The 6 Components of Leadership

There are six main components of leadership. These can be found naturally in some people, but they also can be encouraged and developed in most others.

Vision: Leaders have a picture of the future that they want to achieve. They can see it in their mind’s eye and can describe it clearly so others can see it too.

Motivation: Leaders create energy by gaining commitment from others to their vision of a better future. They align people going in different directions into a single direction through encouraging talk, charisma, personal loyalty, and rational argument.

Strategy: Leaders take resources that are available to them and determine how to use these to achieve their visions. A planned strategy helps define the vision and map out the direction to get there.

Faith: Leaders are optimists who truly believe they can overcome any obstacle. They believe so strongly in their vision that they have complete faith in being able to achieve it. When Christopher Columbus turned his ships toward the unknown horizon, it must have taken incredible faith. Faith is contagious and puts others at ease.

Values: A value-driven leader makes decisions based on moral value first and economic value second. As long as those two priorities are clear to your employees, they will know where you stand and they will know how to make tough leadership decisions when acting as the representative of your company. “Is it the right thing to do?” “Will it make or save money for the company?” If the answer to the first question is “no,” then the answer to the second question is irrelevant. Doing the right thing doesn’t always make or save money in the short term, but it always builds employee loyalty customer loyalty and financial success in the long run.

Responsibility: Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Leaders pay this price by taking full responsibility for mistakes and misdirection while sharing responsibility for success with the entire team.

Industry Info

Click here for a listing of companies offering Trucks & Accessories, Decals, Financing, Restroom Trailers, Trade Publications, Marketing, Restroom Manufacturing/Sales, Billing/Routing Systems and Insurance.

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