Old School Leadership

Old School Leadership by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Krankies is an eclectic coffee shop in Winston Salem. It’s more than a coffee shop. … Krankies is my kind of place. It speaks to the hippie in me. Cool people hang out there. Weird. Unique.

People who are comfortable in their own skin go to Krankies. People who are trying to figure things out. Students. Artists. Lawyers. Housewives. Street people. Business executives. Krankies has wireless, great coffee (they brew their own beans!), poetry readings, art displays, political debates and a cool vibe.

As I was walking to Krankies one Saturday morning, I noticed some brick (or stone) pavers underfoot. They caught my eye. Wow!, I wonder how long it took to make this path? Some craftsman (or several) had to make and place these old pavers. One at a time. A pattern. Fitting together. A large puzzle. Pathways and streets constructed of pavers exist all over the world. In ancient cities. In the old world. Jerusalem. Rome. In the new world. Charleston. Savannah. Even Winston Salem.

I also noticed some “new” red rock that overlapped the older pavers. These newer rocks were kinda like a patch. In places where the pavers were missing, these red rocks had been deposited. At first glance it looked ok. They kinda blended together. A bit. It wasn’t like the new rocks were bright green. They were red(ish). They were close in color, but not the same as the pavers.

As I sat in Krankies having an espresso (yes, a triple espresso macchiato), I kept thinking about the brick pathway. Today’s technology has enabled the production of similarly-sized red rocks that can be deposited quickly. I know they can crush stone and do it cheaply (at least compared to hand-making brick pavers and placing ‘em one by one). We are technologically advanced, but is the crushed red rock “better” than the older, hand-made brick pavers?

Not everything was better in the “old” days. I’m glad to have air-conditioning, mobile phones, and iPads. But on the flip side, not everything made, believed or done today is better than in ancient times. When it comes to understanding human behavior, motivating people, verbally communicating, leading organizations, and crafting items with our hands, newer is not ALWAYS better.

There are many lessons to learn from great leaders of the past. They can teach us a lot if we study them, read about them, and reflect on their accomplishments. There are great “old school” values and timeless principles of behavior, etiquette, and leadership that we should not throw out just because they are “old.”

Clearly, balance is needed between the old and the new. Technology has its place. But could we learn something about leadership from Lincoln? King David? Christopher Columbus? Ben Franklin? Moses? Yes! Talking with people. Delegating. Inspiring. Setting goals. Casting vision. Influencing. Executing. Communicating. Showing empathy, courage, strength, discipline, etc.

Yes, these leaders (and many others) spent hours honing their skills as leaders. Instead of watching TV and playing video games, these leaders spent time thinking. REALLY thinking. Thinking about how to better move organizations forward. How to influence others toward a goal.

Want to become a better leader? Study some “old school” leadership and behavioral principles (and the leaders who developed, honed, and practiced these skills).

What timeless leadership principles do you practice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. The floor is ALWAYS open.

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