What Kind of Leader Are You?

By John Lofstock

Learning how to be an effective leader is critical for anyone looking to move into a senior leadership position.

However, for leadership to be effective, it must be built on a solid foundation consisting of a clear mission, a vision for the future, a specific strategy and a culture conducive to success. Young leaders need to understand that these concepts are essential for effectiveness and personal growth.

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As author John C. Maxwell said; “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If your leadership is strong then your business will be well positioned to rise but if your leadership is weak, your business will eventually fall, just like Maxwell stated.

It is important to recognize that leadership skills, like any other type of skill, can be learned and improved. The knowledge-based components of a skill, such as finance or accounting, can be acquired readily in a business class or with self-directed learning. The development of the personal attributes that are necessary for effective leadership, however, are gained through experiences, observing others and understanding people.

In the competitive convenience store industry, young executives and the leaders of tomorrow face unique challenges as they grow their businesses. The National Advisory Group’s (NAG) Young Executives Organization (YEO) was formed specifically to addresses these challenges and help the industry’s next-generation leaders identify solutions with others in their age group.

YEO’s mission is to cultivate young talent in the convenience store and petroleum industry through implementation of education and networking. This special group of rising leaders will be meeting May 1-2 at the sixth annual YEO Conference hosted by McLane at its state-of-the-art Ozark Distribution Center in Springfield, Mo. In addition to networking and a firsthand tour of the distribution center, attendees will hear how robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming how products are brought to market.

Educational sessions will also focus on the leadership challenges facing the industry’s next-generation executives.

Leadership in Action
Executive coach Peter Barron Stark reminds us that good leaders understand that they are never done learning. Leaders need to constantly hone their craft to become more effective. He offered six skills even the greatest leaders still need to practice.

Find great mentors: Who do you know or work with that people are genuinely motivated to follow? These are the people you want to learn from. They know that their leadership effectiveness is rooted in their ability to build relationships with people that are willing to follow them, whether or not they have a title that grants them formal authority.

Clarify your leadership vision: You begin defining your leadership vision the moment you take on your first management position, and it is continuously shaped by your daily decisions, interactions with others, mistakes made and lessons learned along the way. Clarifying your vision will help you determine what areas you need to improve and what areas will require more practice.

Build your Emotional Intelligence: Your IQ does not correlate with your EQ, Stark said. Your IQ is all about how intelligent you are. Your EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, is all about building relationships with people. It relies on your ability to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

Treat people right: Treating people the right way does not mean treating everyone the same. Some team members need a lot of praise, recognition and feedback, while others may be uncomfortable with that same level of attention. “Figuring people out, and treating them accordingly, is a big part of a leader’s success,” Stark said.

Embrace mistakes: There is no better teacher than experience, and experience is gained with every mistake. Great leaders know that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things. If you’re not trying new things, you’re not innovating. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and apply the knowledge gained to future decisions and opportunities.