Leadership is one of the buzzwords du jour like high-performance teams. But what does a real leader act like? And why is leadership kind of a fuzzy concept?
What would you say if I asked you, “What are the specific characteristics of a good leader? What makes you want to work with and for them?” You might not be able to give me a concrete answer.
I was invited to a blogger event in Madison, Wis., by TDS Telecommunications Corp., the seventh largest telecom company in the country, along with several other bloggers. I wasn’t sure exactly why we were there, but I was told that the company wanted our reactions and opinions on some presentations. I was game. I love sharing my opinion.
The way TDS treated our group of bloggers was classy from start to finish. The event was professionally managed and the presentations were quite interesting, appealing to my inner geek. Everyone had a great time. You can read my write-up about it here.
I didn’t realize the CEO of TDS, Dave Wittwer, was in the room with us until after a few presentations. I noticed him right away because he was a handsome man with that quiet confidence that indicates real power. I assumed he was the head of sales or something like that.
I thought it was fantastic that Dave took time out of his busy schedule to join us for the whole business day, not just a fly-by meet-and-greet. And as I watched his body language, I could see that he really listened to the presentations by his employees. He did not seem distracted, rather he was fully engaged and seemed to be soaking in all the commentary and suggestions from the group. He joked and interacted just like the rest of us, and seemed to make an effort not to draw too much attention to himself.
Some people were used to presenting with him in the room and some were a little nervous, but everyone clearly liked him and every person I met from TDS that day acted like they were playing on the same team. That’s a big benefit of good leadership.
Truth is, I have been thinking about the way Dave interacted with the group frequently since then. In my write-up post after the event I said,
“I was blown away by the fact that the CEO of TDS Telecommunications, Dave Wittwer, spent the entire day with us and was fully engaged in the presentations and discussions. In fact, all the TDS employees who attended were. And one of my takeaways was Dave’s example of great leadership. It was clear that the TDS folks liked and respected each other.”
I was asked to write this post because today is Dave Wittwer’s 30-year anniversary with the company. Now that is commitment, and I am certain that he will leave a legacy that will be tough to follow.
I know leadership when I see it, and partly because I was able to see it in action that day in Madison, I no longer think that leadership is a fuzzy concept. We can all be leaders in our own way if we step up, show up, ask for ideas, listen, engage, and be respectful of our colleagues.
Happy Anniversary, Dave!