Top Best Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Husband
Ever since the beginning of human existence, some--generally women, I know--have regarded the male as the lesser, and even weaker, species. Despite their keen ability to hunt, gather and generally survive, even many men will admit that the male species is prone to not so pleasant attributes, like clumsiness and occasional stupidity. Those women who have been married for any length of time have likely seen the smorgasbord of both favorable, and not quite so favorable, traits exhibited by their significant others. Sure, to really love means to consider the whole person. It means to love completely regardless of shortcoming or inadequacies, no matter just how glaringly obvious they may be. For some women, they luck out and find men who, due to proper upbringing or a variety of other reasons, display more favorable attributes than unfavorable attributes. For other women, the road to "train" their significant others can be much more painful, daunting and time consuming.
On some occasions, however, there are times when the stars seemingly align, a ray of hope transcends those clumsiness tendencies, and we can actually learn real, bonafide, valuable lessons from men.
I truly consider myself lucky to have found my husband.
Though he occasionally struggles with the plight of perfectionism courtesy of his rampant type-A personality, he has a truly rare, keen, ability to lead people. Those who have worked in any sort of leadership role, whether in the civilian sector or elsewhere, can likely attest to just how rare it is to find true leaders in this day and age. Indeed, salaries are known to go up drastically for those who are able (and willing) to bear the numerous challenges, burdens, and opportunities of leadership. A casual look at salary-related employment websites will validate that, especially in this day and age, employers are willing to pay a premium for those individuals who are willing to lead.
Before discussing the leadership lessons that my husband has taught me, I would like to briefly discuss some of the leadership roles and positions he has held. True leadership, I believe, is bred from unpleasant circumstances, and my husband's history of leadership details his excelling despite some of the worst conditions imaginable. Never one to 'toot his own horn', or arrogantly get caught up in his own accomplishments, I will leave it to myself to convey some of the leadership positions and roles he has held in both the U.S. Army, as well as, the civilian sector.
Adding to the challenge and complexity of leadership demands, he has juggled some of these roles and positions simultaneously. To me, this has required a heightened level of dedication and exceptional organizational skills.
- At the time of this writing, he has been the company executive officer (XO) of a 200+ person Soldier maintenance company in the U.S. Army National Guard. As a 1st Lieutenant, he has held this demanding leadership position for around a year and 1/2 now.
- Before taking that position, he served in Kuwait for a year, as a transportation officer. His responsibilities were many, and, because of the nature of his mission, he worked extremely long days, 7 days a week, for that time. At the height of the responsible draw down of troops and equipment used during the Iraq War, he told me that many Soldiers were simply expected to work long days. By the time we had the opportunity to Skype, it was not uncommon for him to have worked a 12-14 hour day. And, because every single day was an opportunity to transport troops, gear, and equipment, there really were never "days off".
- Upon returning from Kuwait, we count ourselves fortunate that he was able to land a civilian job so quickly, as a production supervisor for a large, multi-billion dollar, global company. This position presented him with many challenges that were vastly different than what he had experienced in the U.S. Army. With such rigorous initial training requirements, any commander can be reasonably certain that they will at least receive fairly disciplined Soldiers who are dedicated to mission accomplishment. This was not the case at his civilian employer, as he was charged to lead a team of over 30 very diverse team members.
- Having met over customary patient bed baths during nursing school, my husband and I have always been attuned to health and wellness. On top of our own exercise and diet routines, both my husband and I have literally fallen in love with the powerful therapeutic properties of alternative medical treatments like essential oils. Expanding his large list of leadership positions and roles held, we have also both worked together to lead a team of essential oil Wellness Advocates. Though this role and capacity seems vastly different from those leadership positions he has held thus far in his life, it is not without its own unique team building challenges and requirements. (On a side note, if you would ever like to join our team, and earn 25% off of retail price for essential oils through a high quality, ethical company called doTERRA, you can do so HERE.)
#1) Don't Squander Any Opportunities to Make an Impact, by Addressing Issues as they Arise
On numerous occasions, my husband has come home from work and shared with me both bad and good circumstances that he was able to positively leverage to solidify respect and the desire of others to follow him. In one very recent example, his large production line was stopped by an overly zealous team member employee who was really just goofing off and trying to have a good time. For anyone who is familiar with the manufacturing/production industry, many companies nowadays have come to see the value in empowering even the lowest "ranking" employee to STOP the production line if they noticed any deficiencies or shortcomings related to quality of the product or safety.
To stop a production line is a very big deal, as it shouldn't be done lightly without consideration of down trace, second and third tier, business implications. Really, stopping a production line, regardless of the industry, is really akin in severity and seriousness to pulling a fire alarm handle. Lost time producing product literally directly relates to lost money in the company's bottom line, and a very real possibility that the presence of jobs themselves could be eliminated. It is easy to see how simply stopping a production line could very well be a termination-worthy offense, as not only does the company loose money, but it can also seriously call into question the ethics and integrity of the guilty party/team member.
Recently, this occurred on my husband's team, and he was faced with a variety of options to handle and deal with it. Unfortunately, he was not on the production floor at the time, and, at least initially, no one was forthcoming with who actually stopped the production line. With the loudness of the production environment, he was convinced that most team members didn't hear it anyway. Though the indicator to stop the production line by banging a tool against a metal railing, coupled with a verbal command of "stop the line", most were not in the vicinity where they could hear anyway (later, my husband found that the individual didn't actually yell a command, but, rather, just banged his tool loud enough for the person in the #1 spot on the production floor to hear it, and stop the line).
He could have done either of the following:
- Publicly chastised the individual, in front of his colleagues.
- Privately chastised the individual.
- Enacted one of a variety of forms of progressive discipline, ranging from a recorded verbal warning, to a written warning, final dismissal warning, or, quite possibly, termination.
- Simply ignored the behavior.
With 53 direct report employees currently, what my husband decided to do was very interesting. He decided to address the issue head on, but in a very interesting manner.
He divided his workforce in half, and addressed each group separately, in a closed/private room just off their production floor.
He conveyed his disappointment, but he offered all his employees an opportunity to speak up regarding whether or not they were the ones to do stop the production line, with absolutely no consequences. My husband said that, at least initially, extreme fear was running rampant in the room, as no one knew exactly how he, as their supervisor, would treat the situation.
With his working for a growing family organization, with the deep rooted core values of ethics, integrity, and stewardship, he decided to leverage the situation as an opportunity to reinforce those core values. New to his team after departing his older place of work, he wanted to capitalize on an opportunity to both show mercy, while also solidifying himself as a firm and just leader who would not tolerate actions of such unprofessional ism.
The culprit did step up, publicly declaring his guilt in front of his peers.
In response, my husband told him that he was disappointed in his behavior, but that he also respected his courage and integrity in stepping up and saying that he had stopped production line.
Though some managers would have handled the situation with a termination--and, such a situation would have warranted it--my husband chose to not squander the opportunity to make a formidable, compelling, point to his team. In the end, as a new coming leader on his team, he was able to secure respect, while setting a clear expectation to his team members. To ignore a situation like that, my husband had told me when he returned home from work that night, would have been to loose a tremendous opportunity to display clear leadership to his team. He did also convey that, the next time it happens, the situation would be immediately investigating, and escalated to his boss, leading to possible termination.
I was proud of how my husband handled this situation, and I felt this was a great leadership lesson.
2) Let (Confident) Humility Lead the Way....and, Be Willing to Learn at All Times
After departing his leadership role due to his desire to reduce his hour long commuting distance, my husband began working 2nd shift at a manufacturing company that was much closer to our home. Like his previous place of employment, he has a very large and diverse team that he leads. His current team consists of over 50 people, with 90-95% of them who only speak the Spanish language. To say that this has been a challenge for him would be an understatement, as every communication with them must be done through a translator.
When he first introduced himself to his team, he immediately asked everyone to reveal their total time spent with the company thus far. Needless to say, even as their supervisor, my husband was the most junior individual on his team. He told me that he made a point to deliberately highlight this fact. Many of his team members had literally been with the company for 5, 10, 15, 20+ years or more. He clearly didn't have the industry specific knowledge or experience that they had, and he humbly admitted that that was the case. He also told them that they could expect him to ask a lot of questions, as he was interested to learn more about them (as people) and to learn what they knew.
Highlighting his inexperience, in my honest and humble opinion, was genius. Though arrogance prevails in a lot of males, and can be a definitive inadequacy and shortcoming (as mentioned earlier), confident humility positions a leader in a manner that quickly develops leaders into those who team member can trust to look out for and safeguard their needs. Despite his inexperience with industry specific issues and terminology, he did humble speak of his past leadership experiences and successes. He detailed his time spent in the U.S. Army, and assured them that he would do everything within his power to operate in their best interest by ensuring training, safety, and that their reasonable needs are met in a timely manner.