Updated: Sep 7
Gain Proven Insights from Leaders from ARS / Global Emergency Management
The fruit tells you the identity of the tree. Use this principle to distinguish from whom you should receive advice.
For any topic.
There are many opinions about what leadership must look like. People come up with lists of leadership qualities and their examples. Look at the fruits of them. It is quite evident that only a fraction of them bear the fruits of leadership qualities that they advocate. Without actual application, their words immediately lose power.
Leadership is indeed a vast and abstract field. Asking people in different industries, positions, authority, and seniority, the answers you get will be immensely divergent. For this reason, you must narrow down the playfield first: Ask yourself, "To be perfectly honest with myself, what would I want to do for my job?" Then ask this, "What are some good ways to get there? What skills do I need to acquire?" Finally, "Whom should I ask for proven, practical advice for my career advancement and satisfaction?", "Among numerous leadership qualities, what would be the top qualities they would pick?"
For the last few months, we have been doing something interesting. Each month, we selectively picked an employee who has been demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities. Then we asked them to answer a long questionnaire to share their insights, and wisdom with us.
A compiled version of their answers was published the first week of the month on our social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Lots of people liked the posts, shared them, and agreed with what the interviewees had to say about their jobs, career, and life. All the interviewees we had the honor to have a conversation with are all great leaders in their own positions. They were confident yet humble to share their core values and life wisdom they have attained in their lives with us. Although shortened versions of their interviews have already been published, we thought it is a big loss if we just use these value-packed resources just once.
So we have carefully read their answers again and come up with four leadership qualities they advocated (indirectly) during the interview. Then we selected four and branded them a bit differently to emphasize those qualities more this time.
Below are four amazing leadership qualities we found from our interviews with amazing team members of ARS / Global Emergency Management. Each person represents a perfect example of an essential leadership principle. We hope you enjoy this new special publication and more importantly, gain some profound wisdom.
Ron LeBlanc: Before anything, lead yourself.
Jim Collins, a renowned American researcher, and consultant focused on the subject of business management and company sustainability and growth, had a question that wouldn't go away. He wondered if companies that achieved remarkably bigger than their competitors had elements in common. Collins, along with 20 researchers, devoted countless hours to this intellectual curiosity. He succeeded: He found solid patterns that great, in comparison to 'good', companies demonstrated in common. Collins shared this pattern in his book, which quickly became a staple in many MBA programs' reading list, Good to Great.
Great companies surely have the same elements in common, but what is more important is the order of the pattern. In other words, to achieve greatness, you need to follow the steps in a precise orderly fashion. According to Collins, the first thing you need to master before anything else is self-leadership. Before you lead your company to greatness, you need to achieve the highest level of leadership for yourself. Collins explains that people who possess this level of leadership are of paradox: They are modest yet willful, and they are humble yet fearless.
Ron LeBlanc, a Branch Manager at ARS / Global Emergency Management, when asked about life advice, affirmed self-leadership as the essential ingredient for success. Ron said,
"Life will throw A LOT at you, both in your work and personal life. If you get discouraged with every obstacle you encounter you will never attain your full potential ... Ambition is a good thing. Be what and who you want to be. Never let anyone tell you that it cant be done."
Only when you can successfully lead yourself into a person who is fearlessly ambitious, humble, and resilient, you will be able to cruise above any storm you meet in life and achieve results much greater than your expectation.
Alexander Christie: Be proactive
When conducting an interview with Alexander Christie, he was extremely open about himself including his failures in the past. Upon receiving a Master's degree in International Relations and Security, Alexander ventured out on a career path in the very field in Europe and Central Asia. He worked hard and wholeheartedly, but the more he learned about the industry, the clearer he saw the huge wall ahead of his way. Unless he spoke another language fluently like a native speaker (which he could not), the outlook of his future endeavor didn't look very promising.
Alexander was a metacognitive thinker though. He was able to analyze and evaluate himself objectively as if he was a third person. After he thoroughly interrogated what he wanted to do, could do, and should do, he started OMEGA Superior Maintenance with a colleague from Montreal, QC., in 2016. Since then, the business has only been growing and expanding.
(OMEGA is a part of our branded companies that supports our emergency response efforts.)
Metacognition is thoughts about thoughts. It represents the process of thinking about one’s own thinking and learning. It enables us to create an imaginary distance from ourselves, investigate how we think, act, and behave objectively, and reach valuable insights on improvements.
In other words, being able to reflect, comprehend, and resolve metacognitively prevents us from becoming an ostrich with its head in the sand.
When asked about some of the bad recommendations he hears in his profession, Alexander, without any hesitation, answered: "Let’s just get it done and we will figure out the details later”. Alexander did add that this advice might have a time and place in a company's early stage. However, it must be thrown away once the business gets an established position.
"Proactive management and understanding how your company operates is the only way to get ahead of the issues before they become problems. By ‘ just getting it done and figuring it out later', you are depriving yourself of your best effort because you are simply reacting to something rather than planning for something."
One of the leader's important roles is to see what is to come and quickly act accordingly. It includes having all kinds of different scenarios on the table and actively preparing for the worst. Being proactive, in contrast to being reactive, must make the top row of leadership qualities.
Since its publication in 1989, Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been loved by millions of people worldwide. Its timeless lessons still push the title to the long-time best sellers' list.
Therefore, the fact that Covey put being proactive as the first principle in the book deserves our special attention. Covey argues that being proactive expands our circle of influence. He says,
"The proactive approach is to change from the inside-out: to be different, and by being different, to effect positive change in what's out there- I can be more resourceful, I can be more diligent, I can be more creative, I can be more cooperative."
We, humans, have an amazing inherent ability that no other animals have. It is to examine our own character, to decide how to view and respond to ourselves and situations, and to take initiative with our own effectiveness. Proactive people see bigger pictures. Proactive people attentively assess and calculate the challenges they are facing and act fearlessly to solve them. They see what's ahead of them in the upright position and make a wise move. Being proactive is a must-have quality a competent leader must possess.
Alexander's exceptional work ethic and his successful business prove the significance of this vital leadership quality. No one sees Alexander's past misstep in the top-notch service he provides today because through thinking metacognitively and acting proactively, Alexander has made those unfortunate bumps into a stairway to success. Indeed, that's what a leader should do. Transform your struggles into stepping stones to your brighter future. Your success will come closer to you, sooner than you think.
Holleigh St.Amour: Make the decision to commit.
Peter Drucker, widely known as the father of modern management, left this famous quote:
"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans."
Holleigh St.Amour was our very first interviewee. When we received her thorough answers in writing, it only took a few seconds to feel her genuine passion for what she is doing. A true commitment was embedded in every sentence.
As a Project Manager and Estimator, Holleigh deeply knows the high changeability of her duties. Each and every client she meets has distinct issues and needs. No two cases are the same, ever. In order to navigate the challenge with the client seeking the most fitting solution for all, Holleigh often finds herself on her toes. To acquire better perspectives on the given issues, Holleigh knows there is no other way but to frequently push herself to dig deeper and to walk the extra mile.
That is when her dedication shines brightly. Before she tackles any issue, she makes the decision that she will commit to her work with 100%. Her commitment doesn't waver according to the characteristics of the case. Because Holleigh has made the decision first - that she will pour out everything she has got in the given time and she won't turn back - she does not think twice whenever a new issue arises.
This type of mindset is commonly found in successful people across various industries and occupations. To install this, however, you need to finish some house cleaning first. First, just like Holleigh did, clarify your mission and make your decision. Once you know what to focus on, intentionally cut out or at least reduce elements that may hinder you from getting your fullest potential. Why? Because without being highly selective, you cannot be highly proficient. (Warning: This 'removal/reduction' stage is where countless people fail.) Then you put yourself on the ever-sloshing wave of the ocean of new knowledge and application. Holleigh is an avid learner. To effectively follow and understand the newest information in her industry, she maximizes the benefits of the company's training and education program along with personal efforts.
Zooming in, you may think she does a number of different things, but for Holleigh, they all come down to a single thing: Commitment.
Jenn Sammut: Practice empathy
Each day, we see countless businesses being created. Online business evolution has made it possible for anyone to create a business within seconds without having any brick-and-mortar property.
Among widely various types, sizes, functions, and industries of businesses, at the very bottom of them all, there is one common thing that holds them all together. It is this: No matter what business you do, you do it for people.
For people. This must be your foundational mantra for every work you do. Then it forces us to re-evaluate tasks on our ever-growing things-to-do list and wonder which of them should really be put first.
"The first thing you should do for people is to listen to them," said Jenn Sammut, our Health & Safety Manager. Of course, Jenn does not mean the mere act of not talking and letting the other person grasp the microphone. She means active listening.
You don't need to be a communication expert to know the importance of active listening. Yet, only a tiny fraction of us seems to pull it through. Tons of leadership books and seminars repeatedly stress that listening is one of the essential leadership qualities. However, because we have this silly stereotype of leaders in our mind that leaders speak, not listen, it is still not a popular notion.
For what's worth, we can fake to be a listener quite well though. When we listen, we may occasionally nod and make 'uh-huh' sounds, all non-verbal remarks that we are seated on the listeners' side. Yet, we can effortlessly place our minds somewhere else from tedious things such as what we ate last night to slightly more engaging thoughts such as what to say as soon as the speaker finishes the sentence. Either way, we only appear to be listening while we are in fact not listening.
Jenn is the go-to person in the company for any occupational safety and health-related issues. To do her job well, Jenn has one principle that she stubbornly holds on to: Empathy. Empathy is not wearing someone's shoes and walking one mile only to say you know what it feels like. Empathy is lowering all your guard down including your presumptions and especially the temptation to provide instant solutions. Empathy is deliberately carving out space and time for the other person to speak. While listening to what the other person has to say, make sure that the helm of the ship is at the hands of the speaker. Enjoy the ride while you don't have the map or even the direction; Coursing the ship is the speaker's job, not yours. Embrace the paradox: You need to be willing to be vulnerable and also acknowledge that it is the most powerful thing you can do at the moment.
Jenn deeply understands the astounding significance of empathetic listening.
"Reaching out and being open with others helps me refocus and reorganize my thoughts. This enables me to start producing a game plan. [Only after I finish listening], I will create a to-do list."
As boring as it may sound, Jenn knows empathy in practice is what makes her work to great from just passable or good enough.
Susan Scott, a sought-after Fortune 100 public speaker, and renowned leadership development architect, consults with CEOs on how to effectively have difficult conversations. Regarding listening, in her book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, she advises:
"A funny thing happens between people when one of them is really asking and really listening versus constantly interrupting with his or her own agenda and ascribing negative meanings to everything the other says. And when this person who is really listening operates from a well-built and well-stocked personal base camp - when what he or she lives is an authentic expression of who that person is or wishes to become - the invitation to come out from behind oneself into the conversation and make it real is often accepted. And once that happens, the armor begins to fall away, piece by piece, and we see, beneath the armor, a man's heart, a woman's heart."
Do you want to earn someone's heart and be a better problem solver? Listen.