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January 16, 2007 > The best leaders know how to serve and direct their employees

The best leaders know how to serve and direct their employees

By Ed Rehkopf

It's been said that "nice guys finish last," but in today's corporate world that theory is just not true. In fact, the companies who are known for treating their employees well - UPS, Fed Ex, General Mills, and event Yahoo - are the frontrunners in today's economy.

"Great companies realize that employees are their most important resource," says Ed Rehkopf, author of Leadership on the Line - A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders. "They foster a leadership style that motivates leaders to serve their employees as well as their customers. This approach to leadership creates relationships - the deep and abiding bonds that sustain the efforts of the company."

This outward focus of the leader sets up a dynamic where:
Employees are continually recognized.
There is an open flow of ideas, opinions, and information.
Initiative and risk are highly regarded.
Problem discovery and solution is a focus while placing blame is unimportant.
Every employee feels energized and part of the team and is valued for his or her contribution.
Prestige is derived from performance and contribution, not title or position.
Customers are treated well because employees are treated well.
The energy and initiative of all employees is focused on the common effort.

It is in the best interest of a leader to be as supportive of employees as possible. The ultimate concern is satisfying the customer and how employees are treated has an immediate and direct bearing on how customers are treated. Employees who feel good about themselves, whose welfare and problems are attended to in a supportive way, who are provided with the right tools and training to do their jobs, will continually and enthusiastically communicate their satisfaction in countless small but vitally important ways.

"Being the best leader is an evolutionary process. No one is perfect," says Rehkopf. "The gradual understanding of what makes people tick, of what motivates and de-motivates, of what does and doesn't work, will eventually develop into a storehouse of common sense proven to be successful."

"The accumulated wisdom should bring a leader to a state of profound humility. What gets accomplished is not so much a result of your efforts, but the efforts of your willing and committed employees. Your singular role is to articulate the vision and stand aside while coaching and cheerleading."

"Thinking about this, points directly and dramatically to where you should focus your attention, not inwardly on yourself and your ambitions, but outwardly on the quality of your interactions with others."

About the Author:
Ed Rehkopf is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and received a Masters of Professional Studies degree in Hospitality Management from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration. During his long and varied career, he has managed two historic, university-owned hotels, worked at four-star desert resort, served as Director of Operations at a regional hotel chain, opened two golf and country clubs, and worked in golf course development.

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