For the Union Club’s GM/COO, Lawrence McFadden, CMC, leading by example means being prepared for all situations, even some of the most bizarre.
Lessons in leadership can be rooted in some extraordinary circumstances not found in the pages of a textbook. Those lessons are in us, we just need the right moment to shine.
My favorite place to position myself during key member events is at the entrance of the club. From this vantage point, I can welcome members and their families and guests to our club and be seen by all those attending. I also stay long enough for a fond farewell on their way out. Our annual Lunch with Santa event this past year was no different. I positioned myself at the elevator landing next to the Toys for Tots table and seating chart.
Lunch with Santa started out like any normal holiday event. I engaged members and thanked them for their support and for allowing us to serve their families. That was until one of my favorite members appeared at my side. Completely dressed in a shirt, tie, socks and boxers, this member was missing one key element: pants. Perhaps it was our familiar relationship, or maybe the sheer need of clothing, that brought him directly into the middle of our holiday celebration.
To be fair, I happen to share a locker next to his. And each day, I change from my exercise gear into professional suits. He assumed I might be of help to him with his current wardrobe situation. Quietly, without question, we strolled back into the fitness center together to find a solution to his problem.
Moments later he appeared back in the public’s view with my pants pairing with his sport coat and shoes. His family arrived moments later and off to the buffet they went. My staff seemed stunned with by the transaction, half shocked that he just presented himself half-clothed, and the other shocked that I would lend my pants for the cause.
In my days as an Executive Chef, I often assisted unprepared kitchen staff by supplying them with aprons, razors, and hats. Being prepared helped me to instill standards while making sure they felt noticed as key team members. There is nothing more frustrating than a kitchen without a consistent environment, whether for safety or professionalism reasons.
When I moved to the front of the house, I took that same approach to preparedness, keeping an inventory of ties, shoes, socks, cuff links, and belts in my office for just such occasions. Nothing ruins a wedding like a guest without shoes, which has unfortunately happened numerous times in the past. Maybe slightly different from a young cook’s needs, the same lesson of support and standards apply.
Days later I received a beautiful thank you note from the member and his family, thinking to myself what wonderful servant-leader lesson, albeit under seriously unique circumstances.
Leadership lessons can be taught, but actions are the true acknowledgment of understanding. I continue to keep dress touches in my office closet and have added pants to the list thanks to him.
Perhaps my staff will start their own closet for the future.