When I was five, “follow the leader” was one of my
sister’s favorite games. This was, perhaps, no surprise, as her
status as a worldly eight-year-old ensured that she got to be the
leader most every time we played. However, as leaders went, she was
good at it, frequently “leading” us to my parents’ hidden stash of
potato chips, toys that had been placed out of reach or the small
hole in the closet floor through which one could hear private
conversations taking place downstairs in the kitchen.
It’s been a lot of years since those childhood
games, and I no longer follow blindly at the call of a potato chip
(well, not usually, anyway!). Yet, as Kitchen & Bath Design
News’ Industry Leadership Awards program goes into its fifth year
and I find myself once again contemplating what truly defines a
leader, I’m drawn back to those childhood memories.
As children, we follow those with the wisdom of
experienceor those who can lead us to the good stuff. We follow
those who develop a habit of grabbing onto the reins and taking
chargeand those who motivate us with whatever our own particular
“potato chip” of choice might be. We follow big sisters and
strong-minded teachers and those who convince us that they have the
creativity to take us someplace exciting ‘ and the strength
and staying power to get us there, no matter what obstacles show up
en route. Mostly, we follow those brave enough or smart enough or
confident’ enough to take action.
Author Gail Sheehy summed it up well when she said,
“The secret of a leader lies in the tests he has faced over the
whole course of his life and the habit of action he develops in
meeting those tests.”
Nowhere is this more true, I’m convinced, than the
kitchen and bath industry, where change is the only constant, and
leadership skills are essential to staying on the cutting edge.
This month, K&BDN celebrates some of our
industry’s leaders individuals and companies that have shown an
extraordinary commitment to their clients, their employees, their
industry and their community. Leaders who aren’t afraid to take
action, and who make it a habit to raise the bar in everything they
do, from retail marketing to showroom displays, supplier support
services to community or industry service. Profiles of each of
these winners appear in this month’s issue to inspire you in your
own pursuit of excellence.
But I don’t need to tell you that leadership isn’t
just about winning an awards plaque, or seeing your name in print.
It’s not about lighting the torch and forging forward to glory.
Rather, it’s a way of living. A lifetime of habits that make you
set goals and go after them even when there’s no one there to cheer
you on or honor your successes. It’s about motivating those around
you with your energy, integrity, commitment and passion, day after
day, year after year, in good times and bad. Even when there’s no
one there to notice.
If you look in the pages of K&BDN each month or anywhere in our
industry, for that matter you may be surprised at how many acts of
leadership happen daily, sometimes barely noticeable, yet having a
powerful impact all the same. From designers cooking up exciting
new innovations for designing with glass to dealers maximizing
exposure while minimizing costs with creative marketing strategies,
According to John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and
learning are indispensable to each other.” Like many wise men, he
knew that change is one of life’s constants, so the best leaders
never stop learning, growing, and preparing for the future.
To that end, our industry offers myriad ways to
keep the learning fires burning, from educational programs, such as
K&BDN’s Designing for Profit seminars, and trade shows to
association chapter meetings, buying group seminars, manufacturers’
training programs and interactive online forums, such as the
KitchenBathPros.com Web site.
Educating yourself is one of the best ways to build
your leadership skills and those of our industry as at large.
It’s also the best way to ensure that you find
those “hidden potato chips” whether they take the form of new
business, recognition among peers, increased profitability or
merely the chance to set the standards that generations of kitchen
and bath professionals will learn from.