This is the first in a series of Q&As with the leaders of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is an opportunity for you, our members to read their perspectives on leadership, learn about their professional backgrounds and receive a peek at their personal side. We hope you find them informative.
Q. What is your responsibility at the Regional Chamber?
A. My job is to ensure that the day-to-day activity of the Chamber is being carried out, make sure that we develop metrics for all action groups and we are following a strategic path to execute on those metrics. I also strive to instill a sense of purpose in the organization and motivate the team to go beyond what’s expected…to achieve a level of uniqueness.
Q. What experiences have best prepared you for this position?
A. There is no one position that has given me the foresight to lead this team. It’s more like a set of building blocks. That includes starting out as a young department manager at Rike's Department Store in Dayton, Ohio, my military background and becoming an executive at General Motors. Each job is a stepping stone, which has prepared me to motivate and guide organizations.
Q. What does it take to be a successful leader?
A. I often say that good leaders are good followers. That means you have to be willing to listen. There are two types of leaders… one with implied power and the other with apparent power. If leaders are willing to trust and empower their subordinates they are more likely to be successful than those who constantly need the light to shine on them. Two examples of strong leaders come to mind: Jack Welch of General Electric; he was a taskmaster and took on the tough assignments. He also made sure that his people were held accountable for results. Another example is an individual who was close to me and at one time I worked for him: Bill Lovejoy, former Group Vice President of Vehicle Sales, Service & Marketing at GM. Bill was a visionary and he empowered his staff. He allowed people an opportunity to fail but was there to catch them and help them if they found themselves in a difficult position.
Q. Most leaders agree that confidence is an important attribute. What percentage does confidence play in a leader’s success or failure?
A. I don’t think you can be a successful leader without confidence. Good leaders take risks. When all the information is gathered you have to make a decision about what direction you’re going to take. If you don’t have confidence then you’re setting your organization or yourself up for failure.
Q. At what point in your career did you become someone’s boss? Were you prepared?
A. The first time I was asked to guide a group of people I was in the military. I’ve always had confidence and been encouraged to take the lead, so I was ready to take on the leadership assignment. I’m not saying that I wasn’t a little anxious, but less so because I had the support.
Q. What phrase do you most overuse?
A. “We have to try” and “we’re the best-kept secret”.
Q. What three things do you never leave home without?
A. Blackberry, money and billfold.
Q. What celebrity do most people say you resemble?
A. Most people say I resemble Bill Cosby. However, I think I look like Denzel Washington.
Q. What is your favorite food and snack?
A. Among my favorite foods are soups and fried chicken wings. In terms of snacks – it’s no secret that I love potato chips.
Q. What is the best lesson that you learned this week?
A. I look at lessons as potential life changing events. First I would say that the power of the community is in the people; second, we’re stronger together than we are apart and third, life is short.
Q. What has put the biggest smile on your face this week?
A. Being with a group of future leaders and listening to them engage one another in dialogue.