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Great leaders make it personal

3 min read


My oldest daughter brought home her first paycheck last week. The household was celebrating uncontrollably. She’s just 17, and this is her first “real” paycheck. Why was I so impressed?

It wasn’t that she actually earned some money. But that was part of it. It’s what was handwritten on the bottom of the check: “Welcome to the team! Give your very best and you will be awesome here!”

That’s what my 17-year-old daughter saw when she picked up her first check. Doesn’t seem like much. One simple sentence. One opportunity to make a difference. A personal note from the owner. Great leaders make it personal!

It starts at the top

Talk about creating a “wow” experience. If the owner takes the time to write a note on your first paycheck, how do you think the organization treats its customers? They probably have a lot of raving fans.

Great leaders model the values of the organization. They live them. It’s obvious the owner values giving your best effort. It’s important. It matters. He took the time to write it down. His message is that “your best” is what’s expected.

How to make leadership personal

  1. Serve your internal customers (employees) and they will “serve” your external customers. They will become an extension of your vision and values. They will make decisions based on the values, not out of fear.
  2. Leaders in the organization need to be role models and mentors rather than bosses.
  3. Make sure that your employees share the values of the organization. Hire people who share these same values — this is crucial.

If you want a team that is unified and aligned, make leadership personal. People don’t want a job, they want a purpose. “What” they do is simply a means to achieve the higher purpose. Consider these organizations:

  1. Zappos
  2. Apple
  3. Chick-fil-A
  4. Hobby Lobby
  5. Southwest Airlines

They each produce a product or service. But it’s not what they do. Each has a higher calling or purpose (“why”). You can’t achieve that without making it personal. It won’t resonate. It won’t stick. You won’t get buy-in.

Make your leadership personal. It may be as simple as writing a note on the first paycheck of your employee. It may be getting out of your office and interacting every day. It certainly is living and modeling the values and principles of the organization.

If you are curious, my daughter works for Chick-fil-A.

What will/can you do in the new year to make leadership personal?

John Bossong is the general manager of Cumberland International Trucks in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He believes that a lack of passion and influence are two things that keep organizations and individuals from continually improving and living life rather than wandering through it. Connect with Bossong on his blog, LinkedIn or Twitter @JohnBossong.