Maria Candler, James River Grounds Management: Class of 2004
Being the leader was never a career goal for me. In the early days, when James River was small, I just looked around and saw so much that needed to be organized, streamlined, improved. I rolled up my sleeves and went to the task. In those days, I thought leadership was something that you do – giving directions, organizing teams, making big decisions. Now nearly 24 years later, I realize that good leadership is so much more. It's about being open-minded, listening to your team, knowing what makes your team tick and more importantly, helping them understand themselves in a more meaningful way.
One of the harder lessons I've had to learn is to let go and get out of the way. I'm a recovering perfectionist and as such, many years were spent working super hard on just about everything and, admittedly in the process, stepping on a lot of toes. Now I find joy in allowing others to take things on and grow and learn. When I see one of our team members take on a big challenge or something new and do well, it's one of the absolute best feelings. It's a sense of accomplishment that is far greater and more impactful than if I had just done it myself. It's the best lesson learned.
Chris Senske, Senske Services: Class of 1999
One comes into a leadership position with a debt. You owe your team the tools and time necessary to grow the business and grow themselves personally. I am here to serve the people I am leading. I am paying off the debt I owe every day by serving them. I serve them by giving each individual a clear message of the company values, a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish in terms of goals, objectives and progress, and I encourage each team member to improve themselves personally as individuals, as team contributors and as an integral member of their family.
I always used to say my leadership/management philosophy was "to give people enough rope to hang themselves.” I’ve recently adopted a more positive and realistic approach based on Steve Jobs’ oft-repeated saying on his management style: “We hire people to tell us what to do. That’s what we pay them for.” My job at Senske is to give the company direction and let others who are much more capable run the company.
Richard Restuccia, Jain Irrigation: Class of 2014
To be a great leader means putting the success of the industry and your organization ahead of your own ambitions and expectations. It takes a willingness to serve without asking if people appreciate the work you do. It takes understanding that change is gradual, incremental and constant. It takes humility to understand you are not the center of attention, but serve a larger order. Keeping these concepts in the front of their mind each day, leaders move forward making a difference in the industry and for their organizations.