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The Genius of Leadership

Originally published: 03.01.18 by Gary Elekes

The Genius of Leadership

Change the way you think, set a direction and then build a team of personnel to achieve the end game


We all crave good leadership. It’s exciting, challenging and rewarding to be involved with

effective leadership, and it can be frustrating as an employee when leadership is off course.

One of your main opportunities in contracting is to find, recruit, hire, train and develop people around you to improve your company’s execution. In this era, developing and creating that environment for prosperity is difficult unless you understand the true genius of what leadership can accomplish.

Simply put, effective leadership is rare in business and in life.

It is only occasionally that you see the kind of leadership you wish you could be exposed to in your own business lives.

The individuals in the organization trust this direction and course so well — they buy-in to the direction and course with such passion — that they follow and become less individuals and more of a team defined by the culture set up by this leadership principle.

It requires constant communication, reinforcement and discussion about the vision,

values and behaviors — and how it all relates to the purpose of the company. When these attributes are present, most team

members will do whatever it takes to make certain the direction is fulfilled.

How it Applies to You

You’re building a business and improving the performance of the business at the same time.

This business of yours is, in many cases, like one of your very own children and, in some cases, you may spend more time with it than with your family as a sacrifice to build for them.

Suffice to say, the amount of energy, time, desire, passion and sheer will required to make the business grow and prosper is enormous.

Yet rarely do you see the owners working on improving his/her own leadership skills — to grow themselves personally so that, as the business grows, the owner

stays ahead of the needs of the business and the people inside of the business.

You need to frame your leadership practices to be responsible to your people, not for your people.

As a leader, you have to be able to hold them accountable for the work they perform at the standards you’ve established, and that means you have to create an environment of accountability and standards in the first place.

In an issue of Harvard Business Review, there was an article in which Jeffrey Immelt, who replaced Jack Welch as CEO of General Electric, discussed how much time he actually spent in the development of people in GE, not just his direct reports.

These are the key leaders inside GE. He stated that more than 40 percent of his time was dedicated to the development of these people, because they were so crucial to completing the work of GE.

That choice of priority is certainly a large time dedication, especially for a small business owner.

The truth is, the smaller the business, the more critical it is for this behavior to occur, which is opposed to your technical nature in the trades of doing the key work yourself.

The time spent developing your people is critical, and in many cases probably should exceed 40 percent of your time.

The real issue is when you spend time with them, what are you doing?

If effective leadership is about setting direction, and then building a team of personnel to be able to achieve the end game towards this direction, there are a number of things that MUST happen every day:

• Have a clear, well-articulated vision for the company

• Define core values and the behaviors that a company wants from each value

• Set concise expectations and standards for each role — tie these to individual goals

• Develop this talent by making the tools, training and resources available to execute

• Be willing to always change — change is part of the fabric of the company

• Foster ongoing communication — a positive environment to work and learn

• Operational excellence/execution — Measure the metrics (KPI’s) and communicate them

• Reward excellence — share the wealth but also appreciate, show respect, give recognition

These ideas may seem like common sense, but while they are in practice within your industry, proper and complete execution is a rare occurrence.

Far too often you see only some of these areas being practiced, which lead to more bumps in the road than needed to happen.

It all comes down to one issue: Leadership must be aware and understand the need.

Time and Commitment

Everything defined here is grounded in the concept of developing other leaders, and the accountability for these ideas being effectively implemented is the responsibility of the primary leader or owner of the company.

You have to set the structure and raise others around you, and that takes time and commitment.

The good news is, because leaders are developed and not born, you can adapt your leadership skills and improve, thus becoming more effective at leadership. If you want to change, you can. The human mind can focus and achieve anything if you desire it.

One of the human mind’s greatest attributes is its ability to adapt and change. Sometimes you simply ignore that potential or allow yourself to be distracted by the “static” around you, the daily crises in contracting.

When that happens, you have no method to reinforce your goals, your leadership work requirements to help others become more effective.

You have to learn to become an effective business leader first, before you learn to become effective at the business.

Most of this industry started by getting into the business first and becoming immersed in the work of the business, never really committing to the idea of changing themselves along the way as they grew the company.

Even leaders with natural skills who focus on doing so many things correctly can get trapped in a comfort zone.

They may not continue to challenge themselves to change and become even more effective leaders.

No matter how successful you are, if you’re not committed to constant change and continuous self-improvement, the business eventually will grow to your level of incompetence.

Continuous Self-Improvement

Leaders who want to continue to grow learn this lesson early, as noted by leadership expert and author John Maxwell:

Change is personal — I can identify what I want changed

Change is possible — I can do it

Change is profitable — I am rewarded

Maxwell calls these the three Ps of change.

Becoming a better leader of your company and for your people requires a personal change. Of course it is possible, and if you’re focusing in on changing the right kinds of leadership attributes in your personality, it will no doubt be profitable as well.

The whole point of learning to become an effective leader of a contracting company is to reach your chosen goals, whatever they are.

Are you at your stated goals? If not, you’ll likely have to change and this will likely require you to improve your leadership skills to reach said goals.

Clear and Inspired Thinking

As an owner or key leader in your company, you need to have a place and time to create clear and inspired thinking so you have the ability to sort through the challenges.

Planning time is usually robbed and forsaken for crisis time, but these are choices made by people who do not understand how to get out of the time trap.

To be effective at leading your people and setting your direction, and even defining the goals of your company, you need time for yourself that allows you to think clearly and with enthusiasm.

Willingness to Change

You must understand that changing your performance changes your life, and you must embrace the need to adapt.

Don’t change for the sake of change, but under real, necessary change, such as adding specific processes to your business so you can train personnel to the right standard and do it correctly each time.

That requires change if you are in control and feel the need to have it done “your way” — you may have to change. A willingness to adapt is required, or you will not reach the next level.

Your People

Surround yourself with people that are at another level than you. A great lesson in sports is to always go up against people who are better than you, so you will always have a focused effort on improving.

Competing against those who are already better than you make you figure out how to compete differently to improve. To improve, one must stretch themselves to the limit.

Surrounding yourself in business with people who challenge you to think differently is the same concept and will only lead to you learning a great deal from them.

This requires a certain humility and courage as well as trust, and is a good reason to have a mentor or coach, or people around that will be honest with you about you.

How to Improve Your Leadership

  1. Commit to changing the way you think.
  2. Find people who are smarter and better at what they do than you are, and develop a personal inner circle.
  3. Seek a mentor, someone who can give you a non-biased opinion that is candid and fair to help you grow and learn new skills.
  4. Self-evaluate what kind of a leader you really are and look at a
  5. self-improvement plan. Develop the plan and take action.
  6. Define a personal vision and mission in your life. What is your purpose and why are you doing what you do? This will not only add clarity, but incredible focus.
  7. Refine your personal and professional goals.
  8. Start mapping out how you have to change to become more effective at leading your company and your employees.
  9. Map out how the business has to change. Set your priorities and begin changing — based on your priorities. Ask questions in your business practices — Why do we do it this way?
  10. Make time in your schedule for clear, inspirational thinking time.
  11. 1Maintain a planning period that allows you to reevaluate your position, skills and goals regularly. Once a month is a minimum.

Becoming a more effective leader is hard work and requires you to self-reflect on who you are now and what you aspire to in business and in life.

It is heady stuff, yet if you take the journey’s first step, which is to realize your company depends on you to adapt first and help raise others, you are well on your way to time and money freedom.

The challenge requires dedication, discipline and a desire to adapt, but the journey to becoming the best leader you can be is well worth it.


About Gary Elekes

Gary Elekes is president of EPC Training and has more than 20 years of experience in the contracting industry. He is also a founding faculty member of EGIA Contractor University, which provides contractors with the training, tools and resources to build the business and life of their dreams. For additional information, visit egia.org/university.

For additional information on how to become a more effective leader for your business, visit www.egia.org/hvacr-leadership to access a complimentary leadership training package full of educational videos, implementation templates, how-to guides, industry research and more courtesy of EGIA Contractor University.

Articles by Gary Elekes

The Genius of Leadership

Change the way you think, set a direction and then build a team of personnel to achieve the end game.
View article.