Category: Leadership

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ImageI think we all have that one outdated, old, ratty item we all still keep by our side.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.


Five Lessons For Us All – Leaders, Followers, Young and Not As Young

Young Andy

A few days ago I attended my nephew’s high school graduation. Really did seem like yesterday that my wife and I, along with my wife’s sister, brother and sister-in-law were watching the Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield fight (can’t recall if it was the ear bite fight) and my two-year-old nephew was doing situps in diapers.

That was about the time I moved from New York to Dallas, and I started thinking about my career since the move – – opening and running a satellite office; the largest cross-country bike ride (at the time) in the U.S., benefiting the American Lung Association; agency-life; Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns; State of the Air; Sydney and Salt Lake Olympics; Britney; the other Belushi; Michael Johnson (apparently my twin); World’s Largest Latte; Strategy for Answering Questions; COPD and CODP; Oprah; Christie; corporate-life; NYSE Opening Bell; spin; bankruptcy; emergence; internal; NASDAQ Opening Bell; social media; bankruptcy; emergence; merge, etc.

After the graduation, family and friends started talking to my nephew about the opportunities ahead for him. My nephew is a good young man. I’m confident he will grab whatever awaits him and will do his best. Funny thing, confidence, it is something that can make or break a career and is something I sometimes still struggle with today.

What would 45 year old (who am I kidding, soon to be 46 year old) Andy tell 1985 high school graduate Andy?

Dear Andy –

Man, you are thin. Keep that look. I know you are feeling overwhelmed. Leaving home for college is a stressful time. Fear of the unknown. On your own….hey, hang on, this letter is supposed to make you feel better, but I can tell it is just freaking you out even more.

Damn. Let me try this. Here is a picture of your family. Your wife… I know, right? Beautiful! And here is your son – – he’s 13 and your daughter , yes daughter – – she’s 10. Pretty awesome, right? Let me tell you a few things that will help you get to this “awesome” place:

  1. Breathe – Deep breaths. Enjoy everything that life has to offer you. Explore and embrace. Ask and learn.
  2. Stay true to yourself – No shortcuts. The key is to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every night and know that you were the best Andy you could be.
  3. Use “What if” wisely – I used to think, you never what to say “what if I did that” because you don’t want to have regrets or feel like you should’ve done something. While I absolutely still believe that, make sure you look at opportunities with a “what if” type of wonderment. The biggest challenges can be solved with that mentality.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fail – I can show you some of your grades and while it is obvious you will nail that, that’s not what I mean. Try new things; step outside your comfort zone and learn from your mistakes.
  5. Observe the Golden Rule – There is a reason why it’s called Golden, not silver or bronze. Live by it.

Couple of other things. Be passionate in whatever you do. Love and laugh hard.

Don’t let others define who you should be or what you should do. Apply these rules to everything you do in your life. Work…play…life.  When 65 year old Andy leaves  45 year old Andy a message, remember to open it. And lastly, when you are in France don’t leave your bags unwatched when you go to the newsstand to check the Yankees score.

Always remember, a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.