Be a More Effective Leader

Is leadership an innate quality or something that can be taught and learned? The answer is probably a mixed one. From our experience in the hardwood lumber industry we find some individuals seem destined for leadership, but there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that men and women who aspire to a leadership role can, with effective guidance and experience, grow into that role and make a difference in the lives of others. 

Across the Baillie Group, we like to promote the principles of the servant leadership model. Whether that is in one of our hardwood sawmills, our traffic and logistics group, or within our hardwood procurement team, the principles of servant leadership can be applied.

Many contribute the origination of the term "servant leadership" to an essay authored by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. His belief was that the traditional pyramid of organizational leadership should be reversed and flipped upside down. In other words, leaders exists to provide guidance, direction, and assistance while the employees are empowered to work and make decisions on their own.

To us, some of the principles and beliefs of servant leadership that resonate with us include:

  • Every individual is deserving of trust and respect.
  • Actively encourage participation and feedback and listen to what others say.
  • Serve as a mentor to others.
  • Be persistent in your efforts to guide and inspire others.
  • Hold individuals accountable for the commitments they make. 

As leadership expert Peter Economy notes, servant leaders “push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team,” while also being ready to “invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire servant leadership practices” throughout the organization. 

Part of why we advocate servant leadership so strongly within our team is that when put into practice, there are several concrete and highly beneficial steps a leader can make.  For example:

Give credit to your team. An effective servant leader encourages and supports new ideas coming from the team. He or she also makes sure that credit for a great idea goes to its source—never the person “in charge.” 

Communicate, and communicate some more. Leaders stay connected to team members, developing relationships were possible with these individuals. This grows out of a commitment to always be communicating. 

Listen! Make active listening a key quality practiced by your leaders. When you practice the art of active listening can lead to a deeper understanding of the needs, concerns, and desires of others on your team.  

Conduct meetings in a collaborative manner. Servant leaders don’t monopolize meetings with their employees (or customers, for that matter). They moderate meetings by allowing everyone involved to have the opportunity to contribute. 

Take feedback from others, and act upon it.  Effective leaders welcome feedback from other members of the team. And when received, a leader absorbs this feedback and takes the necessary action to improve the quality of their leadership style.

So, perhaps you don’t have to be a “born leader” to practice effective leadership. Whether it is someone at our one of our kiln dried lumber sales team, a new lumber trader, or someone on our forestry team, anyone can become a leader. What’s truly important is embracing the principles of servant leadership, putting them in action, and inspiring others to do the best they can. In this way, everyone benefits and the organization grows.

What are your thoughts? Let us know!

Tony C.
Baillie Group
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