Qualities that make good leaders

By Kevin Yanik, Managing Editor


10141810486_cc4cdbfcf7What’s the one thing you must have to be a leader?

Is it commitment, competency or compassion? How about confidence or courage?

Those are all good traits of leaders, but one can’t be a leader without a follower.

That was one of the messages Karl H. Watson Jr., former president of Cemex USA, delivered to those who attended the recent Young Leaders Conference of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association. Cemex is a global building materials company whose U.S. network includes 13 cement plants, 46 strategically located distribution terminals, 74 aggregate quarries and more than 350 ready-mix concrete plants.

Although Watson’s message was directed to aggregate producers, equipment manufacturers and others in the aggregate industry, his message transcends industries.

“The one thing you must have to be a leader is a follower,” Watson says.

The concept is a simple one and, yes, somewhat obvious. But, as Watson dove deeper into leadership, his discussion shifted to leaders and bosses.

Leaders aren’t necessarily bosses, he says, and bosses aren’t necessarily leaders. Leaders can be bosses and bosses can be leaders, but one isn’t necessarily inherent in the other.

“Leadership is earned,” Watson says. “Leadership is a learned response.”

Bosses who exude leadership don’t bark orders to employees without explaining why employees should perform a task. Always explain the reason behind the task, he says. Employees are more likely to buy into the task with that approach, and they’ll likely perform it more efficiently or more safely. They’ll also feel like they’re invested in the process.

“Never tell someone what to do unless you tell them why,” Watson says.

A related takeaway on leadership in the workplace, delivered at the Young Leaders Conference by Hal Williford, president of Memphis Stone & Gravel Co., is to let your employees know how much you appreciate them.

“Everybody likes praise,” Williford says. “I don’t care who you are. You’ll be surprised how much a ball cap or a free lunch will do for somebody.”

Kevin Yanik joined North Coast Media in 2012 and has worked in B2B media for more than seven years in various editorial positions. Kevin is a Cleveland native and a 2006 graduate of John Carroll University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Photo credit: ocd007 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND