I Am A Leader: Angela Loëb’s Thoughts on Leadership

Welcome to the I Am A Leader blog series, featuring leaders who make a difference. Today’s guest blogger is Angela LoëbAngela is a writer, speaker and personal vision strategist. In addition to serving as a consultant in the outplacement industry and facilitating self-development programs, she teaches classes for the Professional Development Center at the University of Texas, provides organizational training to companies, and collaborates with other experts on special projects.  She is the author of two books about career transition and hundreds of articles. Find Angela’s websites and other Internet links at http://about.me/angelarloeb.

What leadership roles are most important in your life right now?
  • As a mother, I am a leader and advisor/mentor to my 19-year old daughter.
  • As an instructor, I design and lead classes on self-development, including leadership skills.
  • As VP of Career Development for AHRMA, I serve as a leader to volunteers.
  • As a certified women’s self-defense instructor, I lead classes that help women see that they are empowered and have viable options to use if they are attacked.
  • As a career consultant, I advise individuals on career-related matters, leading them to see solutions for getting unstuck and to develop their own vision/plan to get where they want to go. 
When was the first time you identified yourself as a leader?
On reflection, I would say that the first time I saw myself a leader – even though I didn’t realize that’s what I was at the time – was when I agreed to abide by my mother’s directive to set a good example because, as the oldest of four children, my siblings looked up to me.  But I consciously took on my first actual leadership role starting at about age 11.  That was when I was frequently put “in charge” after school and, later, during the summers while my parents were at work.  Additionally, my mother would depend on me to help cook for the family when she worked overtime, which happened pretty regularly since she was a business owner/operator.

When you think back, what leadership role brought about the most personal growth?

Every leadership role has brought opportunities for personal growth, but a really poignant growth moment for me happened when I was 19 years old.  I was attending college part time while working full time for a hotel restaurant.  As hostess/manager, I reported to the hotel’s general manager and was placed in charge of the wait staff in the restaurant.  Though I had previously been an assistant manager for an ice cream shop, this was my first real experience as a professional leader/manager.  We had a diverse team, and most of the food servers were almost twice my age.  One woman – a longtime professional waitress who was very efficient and had a great sense of humor – was old enough to be my grandmother. 

Because it was a hotel restaurant, we were open every day of the week and on holidays.  The restaurant planned to offer a buffet on Thanksgiving Day, and so, to be fair, I scheduled shorter-than-usual shifts for everyone on the team, including myself.  That way no one had preferential treatment in getting the day off – each person had some time on the schedule.  At our staff meeting, everyone agreed that it was the most reasonable solution… except for one of the food servers, a mother in her 30s who expressed her displeasure at having to work even a small shift that day. 

At that point, I decided that I had to take a dominant stance, which was not my preferred style, in order to thwart any possible dissent that this woman was trying to stir up.  I firmly told everyone that I appreciated their cooperation in working the special rotating schedule and that if they did not show for their shift, they would be fired.  In the end, the woman didn’t seem to believe me – after all I was a young manager who was usually cheerful and kind to everyone, giving the employees a certain measure of autonomy.  (I dislike being micromanaged; therefore, I try to avoid being a micromanager.)  So she didn’t show up, making us short-staffed. 

Naturally, it fell to me to cover for her.  I acted as hostess and food server that day by extending my own shift.  I called my family to tell them not to wait for me to serve Thanksgiving dinner.  I would eat leftovers later.  In stepping up to cover for the missing employee, it increased the respect my team had for me… they seemed to work even harder for me after that.   

When the employee showed up the next day, I confronted her about skipping out on us.  She acted a bit haughty and self-righteous, apparently still not believing that I would dare to fire her.  If fact, she even said as much.  So I calmly and professionally dismissed her. 

Considering how annoyed I was at the time, I was proud of the way I handled it.  This was the first time I had to fire someone, and it was important because it taught me several valuable things about leadership, such as:
  • Always follow through and do what you say you’re going to do, even if it’s difficult.
  • Always handle firing someone with dignity and professionalism.
  • Others will respect you for holding everyone equally to a high standard.
  • Sometimes it’s necessary to adapt your own preferred style when the situation calls for it.
  • People will respect you more if you roll up your sleeves and do what it takes rather than sit back in your own position of power and let them do all the work. 
  • And, most importantly, that it’s exactly like my mother had said – as a leader, everyone is watching you and how you behave.  You dolead by example.  
As I said, every role has brought opportunities for personal growth.  Most recently, during my term as VP of Career Development for AHRMA, I’ve learned the value of being a leader with vision and how to inspire others to not only follow that vision but to expand it into an even better one.  

My mentoring ability has grown as I’ve encouraged the growth of those who “report” to me as committee leaders and volunteers.  Fortunately, this has spilled over into my personal life and has helped me guide my daughter more effectively as she makes the transition into adulthood. 

And every time I teach a class, I gain new perspectives from the participants about what is valued in excellent leaders.  This, in turn, reminds me of what I value and how I would like to be perceived as a leader.

What do you want your legacy to be? What mark do you hope to leave in the minds and hearts of those who follow you?

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that true motivation is self-generated.  Each person must find their own motivations for doing what they want or what is expected of them.  This means that the best leaders don’t motivate.  Instead, they inspire others to follow. 

Because I am constantly inspired to develop my own potential, I want to inspire others to develop their own potential.  This is clearly part of my personal mission.  I’m also very certain that rather than lead others down my path, I want to inspire them to lead themselves down their own paths.  I want every individual I come into contact with to recognize his/her own “inner leader” and to realize just how much life-directing power he/she possesses.

One day, as they toast me at my 100thbirthday, I hope to be remembered as a servant leaderwho will have approached every endeavor with a high sense of honest awareness, integrity, and enthusiasm. 

A special thank you to Angela Loëb for sharing her insights about leadership with us today! Stay tuned every Friday as the I Am A Leader blog series continues. Please share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter using the #iamaLEADER hash tag! You can connect with SOS Leadership on Twitter here and Angela Loëb here.

Check out all of the I Am A Leader blogs here!

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