Leadership Question #1: Who Has Impacted Your Leadership the Most?

A while back, Michael Smith, Associate pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, interviewed me as part of a research project he was doing on leadership. I thought his questions were so powerful that I posted them on my blog under the title, “20 Questions to Ask Other Leaders.”

Two Different Size Pairs of Black Dress Shoes - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DeanProductions, Image #10139866

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DeanProductions

Several people commented that they would like to hear my answers to Michael’s questions. I am finally getting around to that and have decided to answer one question per post until I get through his list.

The first question Michael asked me was this one:

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?”

I wrote on this topic previously as part of “The Noticer Project: The Five People Who Have Had the Greatest Influence on Me.” But if I had to select one person, I would pick Robert Wolgemuth, my one-time boss, former business partner, and close friend.

Robert and I worked side-by-side for seventeen years. I saw him in the best of times and the worst of times. I doubt there is anyone who knows him better with the exception of his wife, Bobbie.

Here are three reasons why he had such an impact on me:

  1. His commitment to integrity. As I wrote previously, when Robert first hired me, he promised me a raise in 90 days if I did a good job. When it came time to make good on the promise, our parent company had frozen raises for all employees. So what did Robert do? He paid me the raise out of his own pocket. This had a profound impact on me. I learned from him that integrity is about making your actions line up with your words.
  2. His commitment to responsiveness. Robert was the first person I ever met who practiced near-instant responsiveness. It made him stand out in stark contrast to so many others who take forever to get back to me or simply failed to deliver what they had promised. He taught me that people want to do business with people who are responsive. This simple character trait can provide a huge competitive advantage, particularly in a world where people are often overwhelmed and slow to respond.
  3. His commitment to gratitude. Robert is one of the most grateful people I know. Now a successful author and businessman, he is never too busy to stop and thank people. This is incredibly motivating to those who serve him. Not surprisingly, it makes people voluntarily want to follow him and do business with him. Again, it makes him stand out among so many who demonstrate an attitude of entitlement.

There are ten more things I could list, but these three are etched into my leadership psyche. I am forever grateful for the living model of leadership that Robert provided early in my career.

Question: What about you. Who has had the biggest impact on you as a leader?
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