By Ron Thomas

“Cleaning up and organizing my desk in anticipation for a great new decade. Found this amazing piece of advice from a wonderful mentor. Thank you, Ron Thomas”

This past December I was facilitating a Leadership Development workshop for senior-level executives in Macau, China.

As one of the breakout session, the exercise was Good Boss/Bad Boss where each participants had to reflect on each character and think of the learnings whether good or bad from each. I love this exercise as it causes them to reflect on whether these finding had a grounding in their leadership style.

Good Boss/Bad Boss: Which one are you?

One of the findings that is a common thread in this exercise is that while it is titled good/bad boss, we have them focus on that pivotal person whether a boss, mother, father, grandfather etc. The most powerful is the learnings that come from this is the “Good Boss” for the most part not a boss or manager. The stories of the grandfather, uncle, mother or father etc are so powerful as participants talk us through each, the voice will break, the long pauses etc.

The quote at the top of this article came across LinkedIn as we were working on this exercise. It was from a young lady that I worked with at Martha Stewart Living back in the early 2000. As I read the article, I noticed that she was referring to me. Such an appropriate time in the moment.

That person was Maggie Mistal who is now a world-renowned executive coach but at one time was Director of Training for Martha Stewart Living and reported to me. As she struggled to make this decision about embarking on her own, we had numerous conversations. When the decision was made that she would leave, I was so happy for her as she was embarking on a new journey that took her to phenomenal heights. As she is now this world-renowned coach and to mention me as a mentor in her life was a powerful feeling in reading that quote.

Leadership is not bestowed by the leader

As we enter into a new decade, I have given thought to this and the impact that we as “leaders” have on people. Remember this, it is the people that you work with and are part of your network who will bestow that label upon you. Leadership is not bestowed by the leader. It must be earned. You must have a laser focus on your people and developing them and getting them better at what they do. That is the model of leadership. The big question should always be, are you developing your people? If not, why not.

I am in the middle of a great book written about Bill Campbell who is one of the pre-eminent CEO coaches. The Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley. His focus to his clients who were for the most part CEO’s or C-Suite executives was anchored on developing your people and making teams more effective.

Leadership as soft skill

My thought has always been, if you can’t say something as simple as “thank you”, “I appreciate your effort” or “how can I help” you are missing out on the big picture. Three simple statements that are as powerful as any off-site.

The new leadership model has to be anchored in people skills. However, our model is based on technical skills. This transition has to change. Sure, we need technical expertise to manage a team but that person must have an overabundance of people skills. Does the conductor need to know each instrument, yes for the most part? However, her most important skill is getting the best performance out of that team and that is more than the technical side.

As we venture into the new decade, I would make a solemn request to each “leader or leader to be”. Would your people list you as that good boss or the bad boss? Your big anchor for the years to come is based on what I think is one question.

“Are you a developer of people”

Very simple question but powerful in the context of each leader’s development. Welcome to 2020!