Who was this person? The caretaker at our kids’ school. It was the annual clean-up the school Saturday so, along with a bunch of other willing parents and kids, we turned up to help-out.
The caretaker, or rather co-caretaker who shares the job with his equally impressive wife, welcomed us and thanked us for giving up our time to help. This was not just a flippant comment, but he actually took the time to speak with us as though we were the only people there and it was clear he meant it from the heart. He then gave us some very clear instructions about what needed doing whilst engaging in some natural conversation about the weather or such like. He also ran through some basic health and safety stuff as my job involved using some cleaning products and a ladder! This was not done as a tick-box exercise, but with genuine care. I suspect he had not even realised he had done a health and safety check – as it was simply within his natural nature to check that people were okay with what he was asking of them. Throughout the next couple of hours or so, he popped by a couple of times – to check how we were and gave a few more encouraging words.
I don’t know, but I suspect that he has not had the privilege of an MBA from LSE or similar, but then when you think about what he did – all the skills he deployed, he probably learnt from his mum and dad by the age of 5.
I have often reflected on my time in corporate life and feel that somehow our education process and what we learn from our seniors leads us to forget about the most important things of management/leadership. I had the great fortune to be promoted early in my career, but certainly look back with some great memories, but also some regrets. I know that, for a time, I thought good leadership was about KPIs, checklists and, sometimes, using the ‘stripes’ on my shoulder to force through change. Hopefully, I am much better at this leadership thing now.
Iain Larkins, 15th May 2018