Effective leaders gather consensus around goals, then use expertise

On April 22, 2009, I traveled to Frankfort, Ky., picked up my older brother, Joe, and headed the next day to Springfield, Mo., where my younger brother, Jack and his family lives. We had planned a tornado shelter that would be made of strong stuff. Joe designed the structure with input from Jack and me. Joe and I felt the final plan was excessive for an adequate shelter, but it gave Jack comfort. Springfield is on the edge of Tornado Alley, extending east of the Oklahoma plains.

On the lower level of Jack’s house two walls at a right angle were made of poured concrete. Holes were drilled into the concrete floor and walls and bolts inserted to bind the blocks to each surface. We constructed two block walls ten courses high to enclose that area. In every other hole within the concrete blocks, we placed lengths of rebar and filled them with cement. Anchor bolts were placed in the top of the wet concrete. About six and one half feet high, other holes were drilled into the poured concrete wall and a piece of angle iron was secured to the wall with wedge anchor bolts.

For a ceiling, we placed 4×4 posts tightly together, each attached to one another with lag bolts. This post ceiling was bolted to the angle iron in the back and secured in the front by the anchor bolts in the top of the block walls. Finally, we installed a solid core door. When we finished, pictures were taken and we admired a professional-looking job. We all agreed this structure might survive an EF4 or maybe an EF5 tornado.

Joe was the leader of this endeavor. Although none of us had ever laid concrete blocks, Joe and I had worked as laborers for block layers on several jobs and were familiar with the process. Joe sketched an original design and sent a scanned copy to Jack and me. After several renditions, Joe’s plan was accepted and finalized. Before we arrived, Jack purchased the needed supplies.

In addition to designing the major features of the shelter, Joe laid the block. The sweat flowed from his brow as he positioned the block. Jack and I kept him supplied with block, mortar, and cement. Jack ferried supplies from the store when we fell short. We did take one day off to canoe the Buffalo River and a few hours to allow Jack to plant his garden. All in all, it was a highly productive week.

Whenever a group gets together to accomplish a task, one person arises as the leader.

In our case, for construction jobs, Joe is the obvious leader. When we are canoeing or rafting a river, Jack is the leader. I am usually the humor leader.

The keys to selecting a leader is the nature of the common goal and the expertise of the leader. If the leader is chosen by others, he/she must gather consensus around the goal and identify the greatest expertise in the group. As I have said many times, “You Can’t Push a Pig into a Truck.”

However, if one adheres to the above principles, people will usually choose to follow the leader.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.