A General Talks About Leadership
Leadership is the key to the success of any enterprise. Parking is no exception. While my experience with parking is limited to maneuvering my personal vehicle, I have been privileged to accumulate significant leadership experience. Whether it’s in sports, the arts, the military, manufacturing, service industries or anywhere else, leadership is critical to vision, strategy, progress, purpose, and sustainability. It’s typically defined by a few identifiable common characteristics.
In an article for Task and Purpose, a leading military and veteran-focused media company, I identified four key characteristics of leaders – Respect, Humility, Empathy, and Inclusiveness. Balanced leadership will employ all four of these characteristics, like the four legs of a table. Miss one and the table is unstable; miss two or more, and you no longer have a table.
Moreover, a key principle of all U.S. military organizations is developing leadership at all levels. Members of the military are put into leadership roles very early in their careers and are expected to inspire people, manage resources, and maintain equipment, often under some of the most stressful scenarios a human can endure. In this way, those four key characteristics are honed and reinforced.
First, Respect between and among superiors and subordinates is absolutely mandatory. Leaders who seek respect must give respect. Respect can indeed be demanded by a leader, but cannot be genuinely given unless earned through demonstrations of mutual respect.
Next is Humility. Humble leaders are more genuine and approachable and as a result, develop trust more effectively. Humility disarms resistance and portrays confidence without arrogance. Everyone can likely recall their positive impressions of a humble leader who was willing to get his hands dirty for the greater good.
The shared hardships experienced in military training and operations is a great way to learn Empathy. When people are outside of their comfort zones, and when their vulnerability is exposed, they are far more likely to work together to overcome obstacles. A sense of empathy allows the leader to put himself in the shoes of those he is leading to find the best ways to motivate and to gain their support toward shared goals. It should be no surprise that often empathy is learned through experience, by having confronted their own challenges in the past.
Finally, Inclusiveness is required for leadership success. The American military is a diverse cross-section of our nation and her people. America’s sons and daughters of all backgrounds and origins come together to accomplish the most difficult tasks.
Successful leaders make sure everyone they lead feels a genuine sense of belonging and feels as though their contributions matter. The most effective leaders are the most inclusive because they know that inclusiveness produces the best solutions, solutions that endure because they are the result of common understanding and shared ownership.
These leadership characteristics are obviously applicable to Parking and Transportation, an international industry that has an impact on people across the globe every day. In this sector, veterans are uniquely qualified to contribute strong leadership skills to any level of any organization.
From valet operations to board room presentations, veterans are a valuable resource that should be cultivated. If you’re trying to build or manage a hard-charging organization of mission-oriented personnel who refuse to quit until the goal is accomplished, then seek out your existing veterans resources within your company and be sure to include veterans hiring efforts into your overall recruitment and HR strategy.
Finally, it is not required to have a military background to embrace and live the four fundamental tenets of leadership success above.
Train your “troops” to these standards, seek to elevate leaders who consistently emulate them, and reward team members who demonstrate these ideals in executing their duties every day. Your organization can be as strong in its specialty as the greatest military force in the history of the world.