“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
– Jack Welch
What does it mean to be a “great leader?” This question has been raised often throughout the 2016 presidential election. After all, it was the time to determine who would not only be the next President of the United States but also the leader of the free world. The job is a tall order for any mere mortal, but according to Michael Siegel, author of “The President as Leader,” there are four leadership qualities that define excellence in the White House: a compelling vision, the wherewithal to implement that vision, focus on just a few major goals at a time, and an understanding of the process and implications of decision-making. So do the same qualities apply to political and business leadership equally?
Politics and personalities aside, at their core I think that anyone who wants to take on the leadership of this country and the world absolutely must maintain focus on serving the best interests of their people first. As a trusted advisor to my clients, as well as the CEO of my team, this principle drives all significant decisions and actions.
When interviewing and writing these profiles I try to pinpoint commonalities and discover the secret sauce for executive leadership. While there are many similar qualities, there are also vast differences among equally successful individuals. Lynda Ellis, owner and CEO of Capitol Concierge, and Brad Nierenberg, founder and CEO of RedPeg Marketing, are an example of what I mean. Both followed winding paths, honing new skill and lessons along the way, before finding what they really enjoyed and leveraging the opportunity to lead. However, each has a very different leadership style that has helped them achieve personal and business success.
Lynda chooses to operate from a state of peace by going to what she calls “the temple in my mind” and reminding her that we are all our own gating mechanisms to achieve whatever we aspire. Life is anything but tranquil. But thanks to her inner solitude nothing, not even high-stakes meetings or extremely stressful interactions, can deter her. With a calm determination Lynda leads her employees, as well as her clients, by setting clear expectations with strict adherence to them. Her father taught her at a young age to do the right thing not because you might get recognition for it but because it was right. It’s a principle she’s embraced throughout her career and has sown into the fabric of her company.
Brad believes it is his responsibility to create optimism and motivation in the office and to show his team that anything is possible. He does this by actively engaging everyone from the ground up in order to make each person a part of the solution process. Brad also makes a point to go above and beyond for his employees just as he expects them to go above and beyond for their clients. This very often is achieved through celebration, something he contends is not just a pastime or recognition of an important achievement but a crucial part of the community/team building process.
Perhaps there is not one recipe for making a great leader because it’s not about being the best leader. It’s about being the best person to lead the situation. Throughout history some leaders who were considered great were also awful in other circumstances. Success at leading from a place of popularity, the ability to motivate or the means to get goals accomplish may just depend on the organizational environment, conditions and expectations. I’m certain a personal enthusiasm for the mission must also play a significant role.
The narratives of the transparent, accountable and principled individuals featured in Volume 11 are encouraging. I am motivated by them to further my own outreach towards those who could benefit from my experience and insight, and doing so with their best interests in mind. I urge all of us to share our stories, offer advice or lend a hand as an opportunity to proliferate ethical leadership values that keep this country flourishing.
Gordon J. Bernhardt,
CPA, PFS, CFP®, AIF®
President and Founder
Bernhardt Wealth Management, Inc.
Since establishing his firm in 1994, Gordon Bernhardt has been focused on providing high-quality service and independent financial advice in order to help his clients make smart decisions about their money. He specializes in addressing the unique needs of successful professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees, as well as women in transition throughout the Washington, DC area. Over the years, Gordon has been sought out by numerous media outlets including MSN Money, CNN Money, Kiplinger and The New York Times for his insight into subjects related to personal finance.