BY Sara Dhanji and Patricia Gras
In the upcoming episode of “Living Smart with Patricia Gras”, airing Sunday July 10 at 3 p.m. on HoustonPBS and repeating Friday July 15 at 10 p.m., author and former Coca-Cola Vice President of Marketing Laura Lopez will discuss the different aspects of an excellent leader and show viewers that being a good parent at home can translate into being a good leader in the workplace.
In her book The Committed and Connected Leader, Lopez discusses seven aspects of a good leader that include “be curious and see everyone, believe and let go, be receptive and yield, bereal and serve, be vulnerable and give of yourself, be consistent and clear, and be humble andkeep your ego in check.”
Insights like ‘believe and let go’ very clearly demonstrate Lopez’s belief that you must bring your heart to work because this aspect is very similarly applied as a mother at home and as a leader in the workplace. There is a constant balance between knowing that your child –or employee- is ready to take the next step in their learning, but also not letting go too soon. This balance is very important for an employee to tap into their potential and progress to a greater level. At the same time, you must believe that the people you are working with truly have the potential to improve and again, never doubt their abilities.
Being humble is also a core feature of a true leader. In our society, we’re trained to make ourselves look the best. We are constantly competing against each other and vying for the top spot. But there is a very fine line between humble confidence and arrogance. The latter can destroy a leader. Believing that you’re better than any of the people you work with won’t allow you to stand side-by-side with them or connect with them either.
Lopez also emphasizes being receptive and yielding. Using the metaphor of a hurricane, she explains that rigid oak trees are broken after being buffeted by a storm while palm trees survivebecause they are supple –they ‘receive’ the winds that try to knock them down. In the same wayleaders can draw strength from being flexible. When a rigid leader walks into the room, there’sisn’t space for anyone else. A flexible leader on the other hand allows other people’s energy inthe process.
Lopez believes that the actual skills for leadership are not the ones that would come to mindfirst. She says the traditional “control and command” model is no longer successful in today’sbusinesses because the world is much more centered on people having a human connectionnow because of the diversity of the people working and the global nature of the workplace.Instead, Lopez emphasizes that a good leader takes the focus off him or herself and instead putsthe spotlight on the employees. This positive approach puts confidence into the employees andallows them to do their best work. The worst thing a leader can do is be doubtful of people in theworkplace. This lack of support will definitely result in people having less motivation to do greatwork.
Examples of leaders Laura Lopez considers to exemplify these aspects are people such asMahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. These people would make good leaders and good parentsbecause they led people without being authoritarian. People wanted to listen to them becausethey were so humble and receptive. The true test of a leader is someone who is able to guide andinfluence without having to resort to the command and control model.
As the former VP of Marketing at Coca-Cola, Lopez is an expert in advertisement and shebelieves branding can be compared to the emotional connections between leaders and thepeople around them. Consumers often select brands they ‘trust’ because they have an emotionalconnection to it rather than an actual logical reasoning behind it. In the same way, leadership isabout the emotional connection between the people involved. The quantity of the people mattersless than the quality of the emotions involved.
Whether you are raising a child or overseeing others at work, it is very important for a leaderto empower the people they are working with and help them realize their full potential withoutstepping in too much.
What do you think makes a great leader?
Sara Dhanji is a contributor to patriciagras.net, she is also a Houston PBS intern and Journalism junior at the University of Texas at Austin.
Note: The views expressed in this article are not the views of Houston PBS.
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