Leadership is making people want to follow

A long, long time ago (mid-1990s) when ARIS was growing rapidly, our company was a sexy, up-and-coming Seattle story. At that time, a senior business development executive from Oracle approached us about helping ARIS expand to the East Coast.

The late Pat McGovern had been raised in the Seattle area and graduated from Seattle Prep. He later became a colonel in the US Army and served on President Ronald Reagan’s staff in charge of communication systems, working in the same rank as Colonel Oliver North. While his distinguished military career had taken him around the world, he eventually settled in the Washington DC area with his family. After his stint with President Reagan, he joined Oracle in its new mobile division. Yet, he was drawn to our Seattle upstart company that gave him a nostalgic tie back to his home town.

I was a young executive who hired this experienced and distinguished executive. I ended up moving my family to Washington DC and we grew ARIS’ presence within the Eastern Seaboard together.

He was patient with me and always respected my opinions. It was only much later that I realized he had also imparted a lot of wisdom to me. Once when I was frustrated over some employee issues, he calmly told me that after all his years in the military, he had realized that no one can make someone else do anything that the person does not want to do. I still think about his words when trying to lead a team toward a common vision.

It is a leader’s job to assess who will follow a common vision and who will not. A leader must lead by example, not just words nor with some title. A leader, himself, must be committed to the vision. I stopped complaining about what may be going wrong. I became more transparent about what I was thinking. I learned to be clear about my vision and find people who WANTED to be with me.  In the end, a leader’s success is measured NOT by personal achievements, but only by the team’s overall success.

Pat passed away years ago from cancer, but his insights still guide me as I build my teams, and my companies.