It is not often that I get the opportunity to bring some personal thoughts into my blogs. However, I believe the timing is appropriate and applicable to our leadership endeavors. I grew up in a steel mill neighborhood where it was normal to wake up each morning, clean the black soot off car windows, and take a deep breath of the metallic smell of iron coke ovens.
My father was a vice president in those steel mills in the late 1980s in a small town outside of Pittsburgh known as Aliquippa. He had over 900 people working for him throughout a mill that spanned miles and was responsible for manufacturing steel pipe for domestic and international customers. My father was an excellent mentor, and I learned a great deal from him as a young man.
To this day, I am still astonished by how his leadership style remains so applicable even in today’s modern world. Although the world has significantly and rapidly changed, and technology has created a new way of life, some things have not moved the needle too much. One of those things is the foundation of leading others.
One thing that my father did was realize the importance of his employees. Although he worked 47 years in the steel mills and probably mastered most of the jobs in his specific mill, he understood the importance of his people. He recognized that without his people, he had little significance. In fact, without his people, he really had no significance!
He also realized the “humbleness of leadership.” The mill could operate (maybe with a few short-term bumps) without my father; however, nothing would be produced without the employees, and the mill would ultimately close. My father was very thankful that he had employees that would come to work each day, work hard, and dedicate themselves to quality work.
I fondly remember those he would talk about at the dinner table—the ones he lost sleep over and cared about with a vulnerable heart. He exhibited that thankfulness through how he treated his employees and cared for their success, professionally and personally.
I saw firsthand evidence of my father’s caring and thankful heart when so many past employees lined up at my father’s funeral to pay their respects and tell me how much he cared for those he served. I was overjoyed and proud to be standing next to such a wonderful man and leader, accepting condolences from those he served.
During this time of year when thankfulness and gratefulness are at the forefront of our minds, if you hold the responsibility of leading others, continue to maintain a humble heart, care for your employees, and be thankful when they come to work each day! Remember, leaders are only defined by their followers—and exist of no value when leading an empty room. You, as a leader, are important, but those you serve as that leader hold a significance that cannot be matched. Be thankful, and happy holidays!