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Authentic Leaders Roll up Their Sleeves

By Richard Hadden

The Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood where I spent my first seven years, once a thriving model of middle class suburbia, has seen better days. So I was encouraged a couple of years ago when the City of Jacksonville spent more than a half million dollars to spruce up the main drag, Rogero Road (that "g" is pronounced like an "h"), by putting in some very attractive landscaping. My encouragement dwindled, however, in direct proportion to the city's flagging commitment to maintaining the aesthetic improvements. The weeds and vines were even less inviting than the asphalt they replaced.

On the day after Thanksgiving, when most people were still enjoying the afterglow of the holiday, two guys took it upon themselves to get out there, pull the weeds, trim the overgrowth, and make the place presentable again.

No, they weren't members of the city's landscaping crew. They didn't work for a private landscaper. And they weren't being paid for their work. They did it because they could, the city wouldn't, and it needed to be done.

The two guys were Clay Yarborough and John Crescimbeni, both members of the Jacksonville City Council. Clay represents the district, and John holds an at-large seat. They didn't make a big deal of it. It was a resident who recognized them and called the TV stations, who came out and covered the story.

Good leaders know what they're good at, and leverage their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses by delegating. But sometimes, as the Biblical expression goes, when the ox is in the ditch, authentic leaders roll up their sleeves, pitch in, and, as in the case of the councilmen laborers, take care of business.

They don't stand on ceremony, or worry about who's job it is. They just get it done.

In Contented Cows Moove Faster, we wrote about the sales training team at pharma giant Pfizer, faced a few years ago with the daunting task of conducting special training for thousands of sales reps, in order to comply with new federal legislation. The big problem was that they had a budget of exactly zero to pay for the extra training. Everyone, from admins to execs, simply rolled up their sleeves, pitched in, and got the Herculean task accomplished, zero budget and all. VP's were hauling training supplies and registering students, and everyone was working, with gracious good humor, around the clock. No whining. No "that's not my job".

As Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year's approach (there! I mentioned the actual holidays by name!), people are going to want to modify their schedules a little, take a little time off, and maybe use up some of that vacation time they've neglected to take while doing multiple people's jobs this year. As a leader, you may want to do the same. If you'd like to crank up the Discretionary Effort of the people you lead for 2011, here's our suggestion: give them the time they've earned, and if it means you're running a little lean, roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and help them get the job done. If you're like most authentic leaders we know, you'll have fun doing it!

To those who celebrate Christmas, may you have a merry one. If your holiday is Hanukah, we wish you a happy one. And may we all keep the momentum going to a happier, more prosperous and fulfilling 2011.

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Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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