The True Leaders that I have Known

Although this blog is relatively new, I have already been criticized for dwelling too much on the dark side of corporate leadership and painting all executives with the same brush.  That has never been my intention.  The thrust of my “rants” has always been aimed at those who destroy morale and create cynicism and malaise. 


In response, I would like to offer this list of the characteristics of the real leaders that I have known and admired throughout my career.  I have always done my best to emulate these qualities in my role as a manager, a role that I have held for 31 years.


Steven M., The former Controller and CFO of a $700M per year nationally known corporation.  I worked both directly and indirectly for Steve for 10 years.  He was the first real “big time” executive that I ever met.  Steve is the model by which I judge all managers and executives:

·        Unpretentious.  There were no airs about him.

·        Even tempered.  Never flew off the handle.

·        Thoughtful.  He never made a rash decision.  He would always think things through.

·        Supportive. If one needed help, he was always available.

·        Well spoken.  Never used a profanity, only measured clear and concise words.  Always made sure that what he said was understood.

·        Responsible.  The first one to admit when he made a mistake. 

Steve had the respect of the entire staff as well as that of a multitude of others in the organization.  Even the malcontents respected him.  He beamed with a low-key aura of self-confidence. He knew who he was and what role he filled in the company. He very seldom ever threw the weight of position around and never with the staff. If you did a good job, he’d make sure and tell you.  If you screwed up or got out of line, you’d hear about that too.  His praise or criticism were always aimed what you had done and never about you personally.  He could mix it up with the staff at the Christmas party but always remained slightly aloof.  If Steve had any personal idiosyncrasies or peculiar habits, they were never evident. He was much more respected than liked but he was a likable guy. He looked, acted, and sounded like an executive.  Steve was not a stodgy old man either, only about ten years older than I was.  I was in my mid twenties when we met.


Under Steve’s leadership, a great deal of issues confronting the organization were solved.  There was no fanfare or accolades.  We knew that we were just getting done what needed to get done.  If Steve asked you to put out more effort to get a project completed, you just knew that it was important to the corporation.  He didn’t have to tell you that.  He’d never send you off on a wild goose chase or waste your time.


A new president was appointed to the company back in the 80’s who had different kind of style – if you get my drift.  Steve was moved around to a variety of other positions and then retired early.  A great loss.


Warren L. The former VP of Human Resources for the same firm.

·        Unpretentious.  Like Steve, there were no airs about him. 

·        Even tempered.

·        Trustworthy.  Would never betray a confidence unless he obtained one’s permission.

·        Well spoken.  Never used a profanity, only clear and concise words.

·        Respectful. Treated everyone with dignity.  

Warren possessed all of the traits and characteristics that you would expect in a Vice of Human Resources.  He could spot a problem employee or manager a mile away.  Always acted with ultimate discretion.  The Human Resources Department was just that.  It was very responsive to the needs of both employees and management.


Warren fell to the same fate as Steve.  The new president replaced him with an attorney.


Phil B.  CFO of a $100M manufacturer where I worked as Corporate Controller

·        Even tempered.

·        Thoughtful.  He never made a rash decision either.  He would always think things through.

·        Well spoken.  Never used a profanity in public, only clear and concise words.

·        Respectful. Treated everyone with dignity.

·        Hard Worker.  Very hands on.  Would never dream of asking anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.  If pressed, I believe that he actually could have done everything himself.

Phil had a pretty tough time keeping the president of the company in line.  The CEO was a pretty arrogant so and so.  I suspect a little of that had rubbed off on Phil or that he had to take on some of that in order to deal the big cheese.  On balance, rock solid and one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.  He knew when the handwriting was on the door and left to become the CFO of a prestigious organization.   


The old place is in a serious state of decline.


Charlie F.  Crew Chief under whom I served as a volunteer fire fighter and EMT

·         Courageous

·         Dependable

·         Respectful

·         Self-effacing

By trade, Charlie was a blue-collar worker. He was not very well educated.  Charlie was a Vietnam veteran whom I had suspected suffered from PTSD.  Charlie was not good at paperwork and did not like administrative tasks.  He was very aware of his limitations. 

In a fire or some other bad situation, you stuck with Charlie.  You just knew that he was not going to let anything bad happen to you.


No one that I ever spoken with about these individuals has ever mentioned respecting or admiring these people for being workaholics, closing “big deals,” saving millions of dollars, or having TV shows.  These leaders never blew their own horns and dissuaded others from doing so on their behalf.  There was a humility and a dignity that they brought with them to work every day. It was self-evident.


3 Responses to “The True Leaders that I have Known”

  1. Kent Blumberg Says:

    These sound like special folks to have worked with. I particularly like the last paragraph – you’ve hit the nail on the head in describing the difference between those bosses who are in it for themselves and those who are in it for the organization and its people.

  2. IT Leaders Who Inspire « Angry 365 Days a Year Says:

    […] Leaders Who Inspire Jump to Comments Inspired by Jerome at The Corporate Cynic I have decided to take a break from detailing work issues and people that make me angry and write […]

  3. thecorporatecynic Says:

    Glad to help out, mate. Thanks for the link!

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