The Small Steps of Leadership

Sixty of the finest community leaders in Pittsburgh met last week for the first time and began building friendships that will span the year and last a lifetime.

The occasion was the annual Leadership Pittsburgh (LP) kick-off event at the Duquesne Club in downtown Pittsburgh. Leadership Pittsburgh is a leadership development program whose goal is to work with the finest professionals in our region to help them become tomorrow’s community leaders; those people who will help shape the future of this region.

Participants come from large and small national and local corporations, state and local government, education, health care and a variety of non-profits. Together they will delve into various aspects of our community from commerce to education, healthcare to criminal justice, and with a little art and diversity thrown into the mix as well.

As a former graduate of LP and a consultant to the organization it is always a pleasure for me to attend these meetings and have the opportunity to meet the folks who will be a part of the program each year. At this year’s meeting, I made an interesting observation that got me thinking about the small, but important things leaders do to inspire their people.

As part of the program, each new LP member is introduced and invited to come up to the front of the room to have his or her picture taken with their new classmates. In the audience are their sponsors, people who recommended the new participants for the program and who are often the participant’s boss.

The CEO of a local non-profit, seated next to me, smiled broadly and clapped excitedly when her staff member was introduced to the audience. A senior vice president for a local bank gave out a “whoop” when his colleague came to the front of the room. And still another senior manager turned to someone in the audience and proudly announced what a great asset the person walking to the stage was to his company.

After introductions, the sponsors and participants separated, and while the new class members got acquainted with one another, sponsors socialized, sipped wine and visited with one another. One CEO of a technology company shared with me that he had just returned from a business trip to the west coast and was about to set off on another long trip.  He was literally just in town for the day and that  in spite of his jet lag, he wanted to stay so he could be there when his staff member came out of the evening’s session. I suggested that if he left for the evening his employee would probably understand, but his retort was quick and certain. “No,” he said, “ I want to be here to discuss what happened tonight, and to tell her how pleased I am to have her involved in Leadership Pittsburgh”.

I usually have to remind myself that there are many aspects of leadership that lead to success within organizations.  There are usually big things like strategy and fiscal management and then there are the small things like showing respect and appreciation to important members of your team.   Last week, at the Leadership Pittsburgh event, the latter was happening all over the room.

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