On Being a Leader - Memorial Day 2012

On this beautiful Memorial Day morning, when we remember the fallen heroes who served our country in times of war, I am thinking about my father, George James Seamon, who bravely served America during World War II, putting his life on the line in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy against the Nazis. He did not talk a lot about the war, but for the rest of his life (He died in 2003 at the age of 78), he carried a deep admiration for General George S. Patton. Patton, my dad would say, was a true leader. Fearless. Visionary. And genuinely compassionate toward his troops.

The same could be said about my dad, who after the war joined the New Brunswick Police Department and rose steadily through the ranks, attaining the rank of Captain, and ultimately Deputy Chief. Like Patton, my dad was fearless when it came to his job, whether dealing with the criminal element, or with corrupt politicians. Many is the time that men who served under my dad would say how wonderful a leader he was. He could be tough, but he was also fair and he treated his men with respect, training and developing them for advancement. Outside of work, my dad was a coach who loved teaching kids the basics of baseball and basketball, as well as the foundations of good sportsmanship.

In my work as a Learning & Organization Development consultant, I teach managers about managing people, teams, and organizations. I've been doing this for over 30 years now. As I do so, my dad is always on my mind, and I ask myself, What would my dad say in response to this question or that question?

Many these days are questioning the role, and even the value, of management, asking if managers still serve a useful purpose in organizations that are so different from those of the last century.

For me, it's not an either/or dilemma of whether managers should stay or go. Rather, it's an evolutionary time, when managers must make a shift I have called Management 3.0. In a nutshell, they must make the shift from manager to Engaging Leader.

The 21st Century Engaging Leader, like Patton and my dad, has characteristics such as these:

Puts people first - As servant leaders, Engaging Leaders see their role as supporting the efforts and success of their people. Engaging Leaders listen to their people, believing as Vineet Nayar does that employees have the power of innovative solutions to the problems you face each day.

Lives by values - In a world of greed, Engaging Leaders will stand out like the rebels that they are because they believe in respect, in safety, in fairness, in sustainability, and in doing the right thing.

Stays focused on the mission - Dedicated to success, the Engaging Leader will roll up her sleeves and pitch in, doing whatever it takes to achieve results that the team can be proud of.

Blogger and Agile consultant Rachel Weston, in seeking a role for managers in this changing world, recently wrote: "But where is the person dedicated to each individual’s success and happiness? Where is that partner in personal growth, that leader in professional direction, that sounding board, that champion, that servant leader dedicated not only to the success of the team, but to the success of the individual?"

I say Yes to that. And Amen. That is, in part, the new role for managers, a role that will support people and help them, and the organization, to flourish.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday May 28, 2012


Dave Summers said…
Wonderful post Terry! Great leadership is indeed timeless.
Joseph George said…
Terrence, while it is great that your memory aids such pristine relevance to our times, am left with a lingering mystery. What is it about our times, that fear has numbed us so bad that fearlessness is about siding with a polarity and not about the AND? What makes us radically left or right, and see the tyrrany of each in plight?

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