This week I was reminded about leadership. A colleague of mine told me a very simple story. She lives in Manhattan and for the last 15 years, 5 days a week she would say hello or interact with her building’s head doorman, Frank. He was a gentle, kind and quiet man. He was a steady presence and somehow just seeing him almost every day meant the world was somehow just as it should be.
This past Monday, Frank died suddenly of a heart attack. And, as life would have it, he was in perfect health, fit and in his 50’s. One could envision him living until he was a ripe old age, but it was not in the cards.
In case you have not lived in a building in Manhattan with a doorman, some of these people become part of a loose-knit extended family. Even in a city where neighbors who live on the same floor barely know each other, certain doormen are trusted greatly and known to all.
Frank was the one my associate waited until Monday to call when she needed to make sure something was done right, and during the years her daughter was growing up, he was the one she would call to make sure everything was fine, even if she had spoken with her daughter within moments. Frank was special.
My colleague then went on to say that she spent the rest of the week expressing her condolences to the team of doormen and porters who worked in the building as she came upon them during the course of her days entering and exiting the building. And, she heard with each of them a story of a quiet yet impactful leader, not only for the tenants but also to the workers.
The younger ones expressed the knowledge Frank had imparted and Frank’s peers simply shared his innate connection to people. Rarely do tenants know much about their doormen and porters, but the doormen and porters know everything there is to know about the tenants in the building. That is their job.
Although Frank happened to be the senior doorman he, in fact, was also the leader. We know seniority does not a leader make. But, in his own quiet and humble way, Frank still had a profound effect and set an example as to what an excellent doorman should be – as well as human being.
So, with that, I was reminded of one of Peter Drucker’s writings from nearly twenty years ago and I think today in the 21st Century, what he wrote about leadership still holds true. He said the following:
“What leaders know – All the effective leaders I have encountered – both those I worked with and those I merely watched – knew four simple things:
- The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.
- An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone whose followers do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.
- Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.
- Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money. It is responsibility.”
Frank just so happened to have followers, was loved, admired and had results, set an example and had responsibility. Those who knew him were fortunate.
That said, despite the fact the world has changed enormously since Peter Drucker was writing and speaking about leadership and management, his instruction is still very much valid in our world today. Something Frank exemplified. So, if Drucker’s words are still very true today as the day he wrote them, what kind of leader are you?