Leadership Lessons

Last week I was interviewed on the America’s Talking podcast with a national following. The focus was on energy and manufacturing. Austin, the host, knew I coached high school soccer said, “This is my last question. Can you tell me the single most important leadership lesson you have learned from coaching youth soccer?” I responded, “Most important is leading by example.” What we do is more important than what we say. We can’t tell our players not to smoke, to be on time, or stay fit if we don’t first do those things.

We tell our captains, “If you expect your players to hustle. You need to hustle. Don’t expect your players to do anything you won’t do or have not done.” Example isn’t the main thing, it is the only thing. What we do speaks so loudly no one can hear what we say. We expect our captains to be respectful of the other players on the team, the coaches and officials. We expect our captains to be early for practice and ready to go. Teams reflect the attitude of the coaches and captains.

Leading by example isn’t easy. Our followers are watching all the time whether we know it or not. Our children don’t always follow our good example. Say one bad word and they will repeat it. Leaders need to be people of integrity. They need to tell the truth ALL THE TIME not just when convenient. We all make mistakes and occasionally do stupid things. The best thing a leader can do is to admit their mistakes and move on. It’s not easy to stand in front of a group and say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” The reality is, they already know you made a mistake. You must be willing to admit it. Integrity is more than telling the truth. It is doing what you say you will do. If you promise to deliver an end product by Friday you need to do it. It you commit to be at practice by 5 PM, be there at 5 PM. No excuses. Don’t expect integrity from your followers unless you show them you are a person of integrity. We have been forced to change captains if they don’t set the example we set and expect.

I told Austin, second and almost as important, a leader needs to have a vision or dream that others want to be part of. It takes courage to have a high dream. Sometimes we will fall short. In 1999 before we had won a championship of any kind, I asked our seniors, “What’s your dream? Where do you want to be at the end of the season?” Our captain and only returning starter BJ, said, “Coach we want to play for the State Title.” He was serious and convinced me it was possible. Together we convinced the team. Against all odds we played for our first State Championship. Future teams realized what was possible. The dream then became to win the State Championship, which has now happened 7 times.

When Joe took over as head coach two years ago we routinely went to the State Tournament but had not won a State Championship since 2014. Our previous coach didn’t want to talk about championships. Joe told the boys, “Going to the State Tournament isn’t good enough. Our goal is to win the State Championship and have fun.” Joe didn’t tell the boys what to do, he showed them. He set an example of being early for practice. Joe led the warm up drills. He showed the boys what to do in drills. We taught leadership to the entire team. The captains got a deeper dive into leadership. Our team worked hard, had fun and won two State Championships.

In government and in business we need leaders. Sadly, most of the time that is not what we get. How many of our elected leaders set an example we would encourage our children to follow? How many do we trust? I have worked for people in leadership positions who I wouldn’t trust to follow to the bathroom. I have also worked for great leaders who I would trust with my wallet. These leaders set a positive example and had the courage to set lofty goals.

At Shale Crescent USA our vision is to bring high wage jobs back to this region. This is now happening because we have leaders who dream high and lead by example. In 2017 we finished our first sturdy with IHSMarkit. It showed our region is 4 times more profitable than the Gulf Coast for building a petrochemical plant.

Mark, our chairman, suggested we present our result on the main stage of the World Petrochemical Conference (WPC) in Houston. I told Mark, “That’s a great idea but getting on the main stage at a large global conference like WPC is almost impossible.” They don’t sell the main stage. It is reserved for high level presenters like CEOs and trusted world experts. We were a small new nonprofit from Marietta, Ohio. Mark planted a seed when he said, “I believe in you.” I started to think differently. How could we get on that stage? It took a lot of work and persuasion. Like our soccer team, against all odds the Shale Crescent USA study was presented in a panel discussion from the main stage at the 2018 World Petrochemical Conference. It was the first time in years our region had anything presented from the mainstage.

At that conference we met TCL, who recently announced their expansion from India to Marshall County West Virginia. My friend Scott from AEP suggested we get TCL a copy of the IHSMarkit study and helped to get the required paperwork signed. The study information was essential in getting TCL to consider the Shale Crescent USA region. A leader’s encouragement, example and vision can change everything. Be a leader!

Greg Kozera, [email protected] is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.

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