Qualities that make good leaders

By |  May 6, 2016

What’s the one thing you must have to be a leader?

Is it commitment, competency or compassion? How about confidence or courage?

Those are all good traits of leaders, but one can’t be a leader without a follower.

That was one of the messages Karl H. Watson Jr., former president of Cemex USA, delivered to those who attended the recent Young Leaders Meeting of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA).

“The one thing you must have to be a leader is a follower,” says Watson, whose former company’s U.S. network includes 74 quarries, 46 distribution terminals, 13 cement plants and more than 350 ready-mix concrete plants.

Watson’s leadership concept is a simple one and, yes, it’s somewhat obvious. But, as Watson dove deeper into leadership, his discussion shifted to leaders and bosses.

Leaders aren’t necessarily bosses, he says, and bosses aren’t necessarily leaders. Leaders can be bosses and bosses can be leaders, but one isn’t necessarily inherent in the other.

“Leadership is earned,” Watson says. “Leadership is a learned response.”

Bosses who exude leadership don’t bark orders to employees without explaining why employees should perform a task. Always explain the reason behind the task, he says. Employees are more likely to buy into the task with that approach, and they’ll likely perform it more efficiently or more safely. They’ll also feel like they’re invested in the process.

“Never tell someone what to do unless you tell them why,” Watson says.

A related takeaway on leadership in the workplace, delivered at NSSGA’s Young Leaders Meeting by Hal Williford, president of Memphis Stone & Gravel Co., is to let your employees know how much you appreciate them.

“Everybody likes praise,” Williford says. “I don’t care who you are. You’ll be surprised how much a ball cap or a free lunch will do for somebody.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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