Andy Hanacek

In life, they say, you either lead, follow or get out of the way. In my life, I’ve been around some very strong leaders who taught me many different ways to get a point across and garner a following for that point. In my own management roles (and in fatherhood, for that matter, for the past 22 months or so), I’ve tried to balance much of what I learned about leadership.

I was reminded of these thoughts during my travel to Perdue Farms out in Salisbury, Md., strangely enough on a couple occasions during the trip. Obviously, Perdue’s corporate culture has persisted for decades, and I was impressed by the company’s ability to translate the Perdue family’s desire to be environmentally friendly into positive initiatives and projects even before environmental sustainability became “the thing” to do. No doubt, a strong, proactive leadership with a clear direction has allowed that to happen in the face of cost burdens.

Another incident reminded me of leadership qualities on my way home at BWI Airport. I stopped to have dinner at one of the concourse restaurants, and there were seats available at the counter (not the bar seriously!), so I decided to sit there and watch the work behind the counter and in the kitchen.

My compliments to the manager for getting “hands on” helping out in the kitchen, but I question why he didn’t step in to diffuse an employee argument that could have offended (swearing and all) or chased away some of the other patrons. Surely, this manager could have been busy, but if it were me, I’d have been more proactive to end the verbal fracas.

Obviously, I’m more proactive, and a leader more than a follower. I’m also a big believer that in order to manage people, you must be willing to step up whenever needed and take the reins. Most of the hardest and best workers I’ve managed or worked alongside simply needed direction and goals to follow, and they were solid.

I believe all managers regardless of rank need that itch to be proactive and lead, but they also must be able to communicate goals and targets. Do you agree, and if so, do all your managers know how and when to lead, what the goals are and how to communicate those goals?

If not, you’d better be prepared to roll up your sleeves.