By Linda Brown, Director, Rocky Mountain Enterprise Sales, IBM and
CWCC Board Member
How often do we hear that an accomplished and widely admired executive is “a born leader”? Far too often in my opinion, since no one is born with the skills required to lead effectively. On the contrary, leadership skills are learned – and learning through experience can be quite painful!
Most children (and way too many adults) believe iron-fisted dictators are the model of effective leadership. I’ve lived through this phase myself and seen this with my own kids. My son, Matt enjoyed quite a few years with the Cub Scouts. Not too many years ago, Matt’s den was planning a formal flag ceremony to commemorate their final group meeting; before moving on to the Boy Scouts. Matt formed a noble vision of how the ceremony should go, so he executed according to his own immature view of leadership – as a petite dictator! Matt tried to dominate the planning discussions. He didn’t ask for feedback. I watched in agony as the other boys’ body language slowly turned away…turned away from the project and turned away from Matt. One by one, the boys lost interest completely. Matt was frustrated of course, he raised his voice and pushed even harder as the other boys slunk into corners.
Ultimately, the majority rejected Matt’s plan and implemented the flag ceremony the way they had always done it before. Matt was crushed. I suffered through this life lesson silently, because I was a bossy little girl myself. More than once I had tried to force my will on my friends, with the same horrible results.
With age and experience I have learned to listen more, talk less, read body language and make sure everyone understands their value to the team. I know now that effective leaders bring out the best of everyone on the team, which is a far cry from simply dictating results!
Now, when I join a new team, one of the first things I try to do is get to know each member personally. I want to learn their work and career goals, personal passions and what value they want to bring to the team. I ask my teammates to share positive stories about each other and to recognize each other’s contributions. When I am leading, I believe that it is my job to foster team respect and team unity to successfully achieve our team goal.
Matt’s not a Cub Scout anymore! He called from college the other day to get my take on some significant discontent within his college choir. Matt described speaking to the group about their common visions of making great music and having great fun. He listened and helped the others listen to each other. I’m proud to see that the painful lessons of the flag ceremony are serving him well.
How do you make sure each of your team members feels valued for their individual contributions while fostering positive team work?
Director, Rocky Mountain Enterprise Sales
Linda Brown is the Director of Sales for IBM’s Rocky Mountain Region. Her 27 year IBM career in Denver includes leadership positions on IBM’s largest Colorado based accounts and now she leads all client relationship activity for IBM’s clients in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming. She is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a Member of Women United at Mile High United Way and Go Red Circle of the American Heart Association of Colorado. Linda lives in Golden with her husband of 27 years and enjoys watching her two young-adult sons grow up.