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Letter from Ed: True Leaders Stand Out, Stand Up When It Counts
I have learned that people are looking for good leadership and are willing to follow. They just need leaders with big hearts and wise council.

By Edward C. Brindley, Jr
Date Posted: 8/1/2010

            As I get older, I sometimes stop to think about the people that I have known or watched from afar who are good leaders. People usually mention famous political leaders, sports stars, pioneers or innovators. However, it has been people that I have known personally that stand out the most to me.

            This issue, as well as some previous issues this year, have carried articles on leadership, managing your staff, improving the efficiency of your operation, etc. As I stop to evaluate our own organization, I am reminded of some important leadership lessons that I have learned along the way.

             You may have noticed that my picture running along with this column this month is different. This is a picture of me in my high school band uniform. Don’t I look sharp? Boy, those were the good ole days! I attended Central High School in Memphis, Tenn. We had an incredible high school band under the direction of Mr. Mack.

            I learned a big lesson in life from him. Mr. Mack had an ability to reach inside the heart of every member of the band and inspire us to do the best we could. His example and inspiration molded us into an outstanding band. He served as a real mentor in my life and stands out as a great example of true leadership.

            What was so exceptional about Mr. Mack’s accomplishments? His last year, when I was in the 11th grade, our band of about 85 people won the Tri-State band festival in Enid, Okla., the closest thing there was to a national band contest. We won the outstanding AAA concert band as well as the outstanding marching band in the Million Dollar Parade. He had such an influence on the people in our band that we placed over 30 people in the Tennessee All-State Band, including 12 first chair players. We had seven merit scholars that year in the band as well.

            Sure, he attracted talent. But he had to mold it to make us a success. A true leader knows how to develop talent and work toward common goals. See the article on talent management on page 38 to see some ideas to help improve your team.

            Another name that stands out in my mind as a true leader is Bill Sardo, the founder of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. Bill had a profound effect on my life as well as the life of the pallet industry. A trained diplomat, Bill brought together leaders in the pallet industry during its early days. Bill was a true visionary. He knew how to gather together competitors and provide vision for a young, budding industry.

            I often fondly recall Bill’s big vision for our industry. He understood how important pallets are to the economy. He would tell us that some day retailers would be selling in warehouse environments directly off of pallets in pallet racks. He envisioned the retailing efficiencies that big box stores have brought long before the existence of Costco or The Home Depot. All of this depends on pallets. Millions of people who had never heard of a pallet are now aware of how they serve our society.

            Bill understood the efficiencies that quality pallets in controlled pools could bring. He supported the concept of higher quality pooled pallets to drive down cost per trip long before any of the current rental companies operated in the United States. Bill believed that management control, particularly in the area of quality, would some day be our industry’s answer to customers’ needs. This very vision is what is driving today’s efforts to organize our industry into more efficient logistics management groups for pallet using industries and customers. Bill had the second key to leadership in mind – vision. You have to craft a vision of the future to effectively lead people.

            Another person that stands out to me as a great leader is Dr. Warren Weaver. He helped mold my beliefs and values. I had the privilege of studying underneath Warren’s direction in Sunday School and learning from his spiritual instruction. Warren was not only one of the strongest spiritual men I have ever known, he was also the most brilliant individual who ever mentored me. Warren’s photographic memory and gracious spirit helped make him special.

            The youngest person to ever serve as the dean of a pharmacy school, Warren was absolutely brilliant. When I approached him about the Sunday Service he directed at the annual meetings of his pharmacy association, he encouraged me to start a similar service for the pallet industry. So, for about 15 years Carolyn and I have sponsored a Sunrise Service at the annual NWPCA meeting each February. Pallet friends who regularly attend this service have enjoyed the fruits that came from Warren’s encouragement.

            Warren stands out because he was a leader who followed the voice of God in his life. He believed that he had a personal relationship with God’s Spirit and strove to do what he deemed to be the right thing no matter what. He truly feared God more than the opinion’s of men. He had courage to obey the voice of God even when others did not.

            Looking specifically at the pallet and lumber industries, a few general leadership lessons come to mind. I suggest that readers take a regular walk through their manufacturing facilities. Talk to your employees. Look around carefully and take notice. What do you see and hear? Are things going well? How could things be going better, and what changes could you make to encourage improvements? What do the attitudes, workspaces and efficiency of your company say about its culture, personnel and processes? Think back over your life about the lessons that others have planted. This not only influences you personally, but it also impacts how effectively you handle your management responsibilities.

            Pay attention to details. They normally point to greater challenges, problems and focuses. Examine details but do so through the eyes and heart of a person who deep down inside really cares. I have learned that people are looking for good leadership and are willing to follow. They just need leaders with big hearts and wise council.

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