The fire of leadership

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“I believe leadership is what happens when you leave the room,” is one of the numerous intriguing quotes in Bill Webb’s book, “Answering the Call to Leadership.” Webb, who puts his message for leaders into action as senior vice president of marketing operations and stakeholder value for Dallas-based FFE Transportation, created his leadership initiative with the Blue Flame Project, a call to action for leaders across the industry.

Webb hits home with his clearly written, short chapters of inspiring messages. And because he’s an established leader in this industry, his words have a more personal flavor than other books in the genre. Most of his advice is based on common-sense principles that anyone in a management position can adopt.

The blue flame metaphor. “Practiced with good care, leadership can become like the blue flame that burns hot and steady at the center of a fire. When they accept the challenge, leaders become catalysts for positive change.”

Are you a manager or a leader? Webb says it’s easier to manage than to lead – and that many people don’t understand the difference. “Managing is an assignment, and leadership is a choice. Managing resembles a one-way street and is often exercised in response to problems, while leadership is a four-way intersection navigated daily.”

Putting both feet into the fire. As leaders, we need to stand side by side with our employees, providing them with the daily inspiration and the tools they need so they are ready to perform. Webb tells one of my favorite Bear Bryant stories about how the legendary coach rated the importance of making an inspirational speech to his players on game day. “These guys sweat and bleed every day practicing for Saturday,” Bryant said. “Their mamas and daddies are in the stadium to see them, along with 70,000 other folks. We’ve run every play hundreds, if not thousands of times. If we’re not ready when we get to that stadium on Saturday, there’s nothing I’m going to say that’s going to get them ready.”

Positive attitude. The leaders I try to emulate all espouse having a positive outlook and an ability to see opportunity where others see obstacles. Webb says we should look for what is right at all times instead of focusing on what is wrong. “You are defined not by what happens in your life, but how you deal with it.”

He concludes with the challenge to consider what you would like to be known for, how your time and talents are best utilized, and how you can provide a clear vision for your people to achieve at their highest level.

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