How ‘Outstanding Citizenship with Suitable Academic Merit’ Can Translate to Leadership

ImageI think we all have that one outdated, old, ratty item we all still keep by our side. Maybe a worn out shirt or a baseball cap from a team gone by. For me, it is a dictionary I was awarded in sixth grade. Written on the inside cover is, “Presented to Andrew Shane for outstanding citizenship with suitable academic merit.”

Initially I really didn’t think much about the note. Made my way through junior and high school, attended Lehigh University and started my public relations career where I found myself managing, mentoring and leading.

It was probably my early twenties when I reached for the dictionary that was on a shelf at my parent’s house. Suitable academic merit? Really? Not that I have my sixth grade report card handy (maybe I should have kept it in the dictionary), but I’m pretty confident I was better than suitable.

Now, entrenched in my forties, I will take a look at the dictionary and smile. A July10th  Inc. article argues if you want to be an exceptional leader, warmth and approachability matter far more than competence. The reporter states, “Most leaders emphasize strength, competence, and credentials at work, but, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.

“The article authors, Amy J.C. Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, and Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger, who also wrote Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, say employees react best to leaders who exude warmth, and authentically invest time and effort to connect with them.”

I’ve tried to live by this. From a purely philosophical standpoint, it is as simple as the Golden Rule. From a practical perspective, today’s work environment can be so volatile – – in the last seven years I’ve gone through two bankruptcies and five CEO changes – – you need a team willing to do what it takes to do the job right and that means providing them with honesty, openness and the means to get that job done.

So what does that mean? Leaders treat their employees with respect, explaining why, what they are doing is important. Leaders are as only as good as their team, meaning leaders need employees who will work with a sense of pride and urgency, doing so – when needed – during times other than 9-5.

For me, a variety of – what I view as – simple things help build a good team:

  • Flexible work hours. You bet – – family first.
  • Opportunities to shine. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Team lunches on me. Love to eat.
  • No politics. Never with me.
  • Door always open to discuss anything and everything knowing it stays in my office. That is what I’m here for.
  • Have fun doing it. A little song, a little dance…you know the rest.

Obviously you don’t want to go overboard. There is a line between being a great boss and a pushover. And not every great boss is a leader.

Leaders for me are fair but firm. Want you to succeed and provide you with the tools to do so. Leaders are great listeners and are willing to share their successes and failures. Patient. Hold people accountable. Praise in public and provide “opportunities for growth” privately.

In other words, the successful leader should have enough “skins on the wall” at his/her craft, but must be able to empathize and really care about his/her employees… outstanding citizenship with suitable academic merit – – maybe my elementary school did have the right idea.


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