Focus: The Second Principle of Great Leadership
Good leaders achieve the expected. Great leaders deliver the unexpected. Fortunately for me I have had the honor to learn from the latter as evidenced by one particular encounter I will never forget.
I was making a sales call on an advertising executive in the automotive aftermarket business. I had never met this gentleman and knew little about him or his organization. Sitting outside his office his secretary asked, “David, have you ever met Mr. Anderson?” I explained that this was my first visit to their company. With that piece of knowledge she quietly said, “Well, let me prepare you. You are about to meet a monster.” I was stunned. “Let me explain.” she said. “A few years ago Mr. Anderson and his wife were in a terrible car accident. She burned alive while he was horribly scarred for life. Regardless, you will never meet a finer more upbeat person.” At that moment a voice on the intercom interrupted our conversation. “Peggy, please send David into my office.” I took a deep breath and proceeded to meet the “monster” on the other side of his office door.
Mr. Anderson was standing behind his desk with his back to me gazing out of his third-story window. Without turning around he said, “David, have you ever seen a bad day?” Recalling his secretary’s words I managed a timid response. “Well sir, I believe we have all seen or experienced a bad day.” His response was immediate. “Come over to my window and I’ll show you what a bad day looks like.”
Preparing for the worst I slowly walked over toward the statuesque man. He turned and smiled with a face that was no more. Turning once again to look outside he pointed to the ground below. Adjacent to the building complex was a cemetery! “David,” he continued, “now that’s a bad day. You and I are about to have a good one.” We did.
Mr. Anderson’s gift to me that day was simple: pay attention and focus, or be the focus of unwanted attention.
Marketing & Public Relations Officer
Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan