Leadership styles vary from culture to culture because of the beliefs people grow up with. However, with global mobility, many leaders have lived in more than one culture. Therefore, their practices have evolved and expanded. I have had the good fortune to work with or observe some outstanding leaders. They left such an impression on me that I would like to share with you their examples of leadership styles.
Leadership styles that honor individuals
Barbara Dunbar-Burke is an extraordinary leader. I had the good fortune to work with her for just a few brief months before she was offered a position from the sunshine state.
Schedule time to connect
She scheduled a 2-hour meeting with me every Tuesday afternoon. Whether we had business matters to take care of or not, we met for the full 2 hours. She used this time to pay complete attention to me, to hear what I thought was important in my work. And we included many stories from our personal lives as well. She got to know me as a person. And she let me get to know her.
Whatever tasks she asked me to do, she left me alone to do as I see fit. She trusted my judgment completely, never hovering over me. This trait alone created a trusting work relationship between us.
Give public recognition
At her farewell party given by her friends, Barbara invited me to attend. Toward the end of the party, she surprised me. Although I did not ask her for a recommendation, she wrote one anyway, AND read it aloud to her friends to acknowledge my qualities. She wrote about my personality traits so it would be helpful for any prospective employers.
Even after we both left the organization, we stayed in touch because of the strong work relationship that we built.
Barbara Dunbar-Burke is a tough act to follow. It would be hard not to compare future employers with her. Yet, Lady Luck brought me another wonderful leader to work with–Jim Hendricks.
A colleague told me that the university she taught at was looking for an ESL instructor. I called Jim, and talked for half an hour. At the end of the phone call, he invited me to visit the campus.
When I got there, I could tell he had already hired me in his mind. The face-to-face was just a handshake to say I got the job.
Jim managed the ESL department. His leadership style was to support when teachers needed it, and to be hands off so they can do what they do best.
When international students told me that the TOEFL exam was difficult, I told Jim I would take the test myself to find out why it was hard for them. I thought it was easy when I took it as a foreign student. But perhaps things have changed. Jim said he would get the funding to pay for the exam. He felt I should not have to pay out of my own pocket, which I was prepared to do.
Skip forward a few years. I had been teaching at a different college, and decided to call the department secretary where Jim worked, and check if there was a need for ESL instructor. Linda Mitchell connected me to the new manager, Bill. The next day, I received a card in the mail from Jim Hendricks saying, “Linda told me you called and sent you to Bill. I caught Bill in the hallway, and told him to put you to good use. In fact, if there is something besides ESL that you’d be interested in talking about…stop by and we’ll chat.”
Paving the way to employee success
I visited Jim at the university. He introduced me to the new manager as well as the new director. He was helping me make connections. Do you know how good it feels to have someone pave the way for you like that? It feels GREAT!
That particular quarter, the ESL department was fully staffed, so there was no need for additional instructors. However, that was how I got to experience the most generous gift from an employer.
One afternoon, Jim called me and said, “I have to teach an evening class, and then I have to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next day for early morning meetings. It would be very helpful if you could take my evening class.”
Jim gave me his OWN class. Talk about graciousness and generosity! I really do have the BEST luck in encountering the kindest people.
Barbara Dunbar-Burke and Jim Hendricks were exceptional leaders. They were there to provide support whenever I needed it. And they showed complete trust in me to do my job well.
There’s another leader who was very much like Barbara and Jim in terms of leaving people alone to do what they do best. I worked as an independent contractor for his company. Rich Bradley hired me to create a customized ESL program for the immigrant employees so they can advance in the company.
There’s a lot to say about Rich, even though I did not work closely with him. The article Rich Bradley – compassionate business leader goes into his story in depth. His kindness toward his employees is extraordinary. I think you would feel touched by his generosity.
These are just a few of the wonderful leaders I have worked with. I would love to hear about your experience with exceptional leaders. Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you find this blog inspiring, here is another one you might also enjoy reading Caring Resources in Seattle.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email email@example.com