Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Leadership lessons from Thomas Jefferson



As we think about who leads and inspires us in our lives and businesses, let us be reminded of Thomas Jefferson, a great leader who was able to move past challenges in order to see a better way for the future.

By Phill Sexton
As another snow season winds down, we at SIMA are continually thinking about leadership for our industry. This time of year also marks another opportunity to choose SIMA’s CEO of the year. In the practical sense of their role, CEOs are the leaders who drive and motivate teams, people, ideas, initiatives, goals and purpose. So many come and go, yet there remain a few in the snow business and in history that stand out from all the rest. I’ve had the pleasure to work with many in the snow industry as well as read and study about many more, including one great historical leader of our country, Thomas Jefferson.

At his core, Thomas Jefferson was a man of many great interests and talents. In the book Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, Jefferson is described as a philosopher, naturalist, scientist and historian, which are just a few of the many attributes and passions that drove Jefferson to become one of the great leaders in American history.  Jefferson was a rare leader who stood out from the crowd without intimidating it. His bearing gave him unusual opportunities to make the thoughts in his head the work of his hands, transforming the world around him from what it was to what he thought it should be. 

As a planter, lawyer, legislator, governor, diplomat, secretary of state, vice president and president of the United States, Jefferson spent much of his life seeking control over himself and power over the lives and destinies of others. He did not allow politics to distract him from his vision of making everything worthwhile possible. For the great leaders and CEOs who are members of SIMA, the current politics, economic environment and competition offer the same possibilities to make our industry and those who work in it better, more professional, and possibly even more profitable.  

Jefferson embraced the role of leader and patriarch, accepting the accompanying burdens of responsibility. CEOs share this similar desire with Jefferson as today’s leaders of business teams who carry the burden of a company’s people, clients, mission and culture through economic downturns, competition, growth and downsizing. Jefferson found the means to endure and prevail in the face of economic uncertainty, external threats of a still newly founded country and extreme partisanship. His style of leadership offers an example of a president who operated at two levels, cultivating the hope of a brighter future while maintaining the flexibility and skill to bring a future ideal closer to current reality.  

CEOs of the snow & ice industry have a similar opportunity to balance the current economic climate and national competition while creating a progressive movement toward a more balanced and consistent service and pricing approach. As we think about who leads and inspires us in our lives and businesses, let us be reminded of Thomas Jefferson, a great leader who was able to move past the challenges and current realities in order to see a better way for the future.

SIMA’s CEO of the Year award was created to recognize leaders with many of these leadership traits, and how they reflect on the values and culture of professional snow and ice management companies. If you work with or know of someone who would be a great candidate to receive the CEO of the Year Award in 2013, please nominate them at www.sima.org/ceo

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