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The key to real leadership

A friend of mine sent me the link to this article in The Blaze www.TheBlaze.com The focus was environmental. I saw it as a lesson in leadership. I have been teaching leadership for decades to high school and college students as well as adults. I am passionate about it. Here is an excerpt from the article;

Two students at St John’s College wrote to Andrew Parker, the principal bursar, this week requesting a meeting to discuss the protesters’ demands, which are that the college “declares a climate emergency and immediately divests from fossil fuels.” They say that the college, the richest in Oxford, has 8 million of its 551 million endowment fund invested in BP and Shell.

Professor Parker responded with a provocative offer. “I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice,” he wrote. “But I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect. Please let me know if you support this proposal.”

According to the Times, one of the students wrote back that he would pass on the request, but criticized Parker for not taking the matter seriously. “You are right that I am being provocative but I am provoking some clear thinking, I hope,” Parker responded. “It is all too easy to request others to do things that carry no personal cost to yourself. The question is whether you and others are prepared to make personal sacrifices to achieve the goals of environmental improvement (which I support as a goal).”

Evidently, the student did pass on the request, because the organizer of the protest, a graduate student fittingly named Fergus Green, heard and responded to Parker, calling his suggestion “borderline dangerous.” Green blasted. “It’s January and it would be borderline dangerous to switch off the central heating.”

Green was right. It would be dangerous to switch off central heating in January. What he didn’t understand is eliminating fossil fuels, like he is demanding, would be dangerous for millions of people. Maybe Green didn’t understand the source of his heat and heat for millions of others is natural gas, a fossil fuel. Maybe he didn’t understand the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine especially during the short days of winter when it is needed most for heat. Maybe Green didn’t understand petrochemicals from fossil fuels are required to manufacture these renewableenergy sources. One thing Green did not understand for certain is leadership.

One of the first things I teach the seniors on my soccer team and those in leadership positions in corporate America is; In leadership, example isn’t the main thing, it is everything. It is not what a leader says. It is what they do that matters. My seniors know, if they expect their players to work hard in practice and hustle in a game they, the leaders, have to work hard in practice and hustle first. Their players may decide to follow. They won’t hustle without the example of their leaders. Have you ever worked in a place where, when the boss left for the day everyone was practically right behind them? If the leader of a crew doesn’t wear their safety equipment the rest of the crew won’t wear their safety equipment and the crew will have a poor safety record. The leader is sending the message that safety isn’t important.

As parents or grandparents, our children watch us all the time. They will copy what we do or say, the good or the bad things. I don’t know why but they always seem to copy the bad things first.

The two students leading the climate protest by their example were sending a message to their followers and anyone else observing that their cause wasn’t very important. It wasn’t worth any personal sacrifice. It suggested an arrogance on their part that they are better than others. They are telling the world that others need to stop using fossil fuels but not them. A leader has to walk the talk. If they are serious about not using fossil fuels they need to show people what that would look like. They need to stop using fossil fuels and their products first then others may follow. In this case not having heat in January was too great a sacrifice.

This is very common in our country. We have presidential candidates and other “environmental” leaders promoting an end to fracking and fossil fuels. They are passionate on stage. Then they hop on their private jets built and fueled by fossil fuels and fly away. One candidate had a serious heart issue. He didn’t refuse treatment even though the medical equipment that saved his life was the product of fracking and fossil fuels. What is the real message he is sending? When the price of electricity goes up under their plan will they suffer like the rest of us will?

As business leaders, your people are watching. What example are you setting? Do your actions match your words. Do you tell your people what to do and how to act or do you show them? Leadership by example works. It has been with us a long time. Over 2000 years ago a religious leader washed the feet of his 12 disciples as an example of how they should treat each other. He started a church that is still in existence today. Thoughts to ponder.

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Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert and the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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