– By Mike Konzen, Principal and Chair
He is also a great example of our new generation of leaders at PGAV. John is not an owner, officer, department head, senior creative, or project leader. He is a valued assistant, with responsibilities that range from ordering supplies to organizing our warehouse.
John is a leader because of his determination to make us all healthy. His Stair Ninja persona derives from his principle form of exercise: running stairs. During lunch, he routinely goes to the office tower across the street to take on the forty floors in under five minutes – multiple times! And he usually gathers a group to join him in the challenge. This time of year, he organizes a 60-person PGAV team to participate in a Fight for Air Climb to benefit the American Lung Association.
John’s fitness leadership improves us all, and the most impressive part is, no one told him to take charge. He chooses to do this all by himself. He demonstrates what I call the Open Leadership Principle:
You can never have too many leaders.
And there are an infinite number of ways to lead.
It took me a while to learn this. Growing up in an industrial town, my earliest work experiences were in factory settings. My first bosses practiced command-and-control, treating management positions as a reward for performance or seniority. Entering the architectural field in 1986, I had to work my way into management positions by convincing my bosses that I was worthy, often in competition with my peers.
I had to unlearn this management-based approach through four important lessons.
Lesson #1– Be a Leader, Not a Manager
One day I realized that I had been trained to be a manager by other managers. And more importantly, I needed to understand the key difference between management and leadership.
In his 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “Three Differences Between Managers and Leaders,” Vineet Nayar puts it clearly: “Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute to organizational success.”
Management is about control. Leadership is about empowering others and can be far more effective in achieving success.
Lesson #2 – Leaders Beget Leaders
Just as managers tend to train others to be managers, leaders can inspire others to realize their own leadership potential.
In their excellent book, Launching a Leadership Revolution, Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward describe five levels of influence that produce leadership excellence: Learning, Performing, Leading, Developing Leaders, and ultimately, Developing Leaders Who Develop Leaders.
If leadership has the power to drive organizational success, imagine the value of developing leaders who develop leaders! More importantly, leadership should exist at all levels of an organization.
Lesson #3 – Encourage Leadership Potential
A few years ago, I delivered a TEDx talk and was assigned two coaches, Leah Lorendo and Thomas Gregory. They introduced me to an important concept: successful leaders effectively communicate their values and ideas.
As we began to see the importance of leadership at all levels in PGAV, we worked with Leah and Thomas to develop a ten-week program called “Ennobling Leadership.” Each group of eight team members undertakes this process of learning and reflection, ultimately resulting in the development of their personal leadership legacy. To date, more than sixty team members have taken this course, and the results are evident.
Lesson #4 – Open Leadership
We value and encourage leadership at all levels, often leading to wonderful and unexpected things. A Green Team makes our operations more environmentally sustainable. An office storytelling program celebrates our culture. A new quality control process improves our services. A Mardi Gras parade float advocates for a ban on the ivory trade. Apps are developed to facilitate communication for our growing team. And, of course, we all get a bit healthier.
Great leaders emerge when they creatively use their talents and interests to solve problems and open up new possibilities for growth. Like John Wilmas, they don’t do it because they are asked, but because they are inspired by the actions of others to make us all better. They take risks, collaborate, and put in extra time to make their ideas work. And I am very grateful for each and every one of them.