Pulling versus Pushing

– If you’ve got some free time, go check out some truly inspirational talks on TedTalk. WISE has garnered some great ideas

there especially about how true leaders lead. One such TedTalk (besides our favorite, Simon Sinek), is from Bill Davids*, who contends that leadership without ego is the most valuable and rarest commodity on earth.

If management is about control – control over quality, time, and money of the products we sell – then leadership deals with people. While we certainly need good management to have a viable business, it is leadership that makes a difference, and this is how outstanding organizations are built to last.

During Davids’ TedTalk, he talks about during World War II, when Dwight Eisenhower was the Allied Supreme Commander of the US military forces. Eisenhower knew that the key to success was to have his generals become outstanding leaders. He explained leadership to them by using a length of chain link. He stacked it in a pile on a table and asked his generals which way it would go if it were pushed. The correct answer was that no one knew for sure, but it was likely that the coil of chain would simply topple over. Then he took the chain link by one end and pulled it. It was obvious that the chain link would follow wherever it was pulled.

Eisenhower and Davids use this as the perfect analogy for leadership. If we push our people, we won’t really know what they are thinking and we can never be sure of their support. The better idea is to pull them along in the direction we want them to take. One of the best ways to do this is to lead by example. When we demonstrate to our staff that we are willing to perform the same job requirements we expect from them, we reinforce the dignity and importance of the tasks at hand. To effectively lead our staff, we need to spend time in their shoes. A good example of this is Herb Kelleher, the president of Southwest airlines, who handled baggage with his team one Saturday per month.

We need to be good role models for our employees, and there is no substitute. We need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. How does that show up in our world and in our Tasting Rooms? Let’s ask ourselves these questions:

Do we:

  • Dive into the trenches on a busy Saturday to pour and surprise and delight our guests?
  • Show employees how to do the job or simply tell them how to do it?
  • Promote teamwork without modeling team leadership and effectiveness?
  • Force our team to be more customer-focused when we stay in our offices, driven by systems and technology?
  • Admit our own mistakes and give credit to our staff for their good ideas and excellent efforts?
  • Exhibit the good judgment, integrity, compassion and honesty that we expect from our team?
  • Drive for positive changes when we are pessimistic?
  • Demand higher levels of innovation while we stick to familiar methods and traditional management approaches?
  • Insist on disciplined organization when we’re not well-organized?
  • Force accountability, performance appraisal, and measurement on others while we avoid personal feedback about ourselves?

If we try to lead by merely enforcing the power of our position, our staff – our chain link – will resist and topple over. Instead, we need to lead by jumping into the trenches with them and PULL.

*Source: Davids, Bill. “The Rarest Commodity Is Leadership without Ego: Bob Davids at TEDxESCP.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Apr. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v.TEDxESCP is an independently organised TED event, by students of ESCP Europe in Paris.

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