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What We Leave Behind

It's Not Us That Decides

Twenty-five years ago, I got a call from an executive search firm. The person on the other end asked if I was George Minakakis? I confirmed my identity and then he told me that he was happy to finally have tracked me down.

I laughed and asked; How I could help him?

He went on to tell me that he was conducting a search for one of his clients and they had interviewed three candidates from my previous employer. I thought maybe he was looking for references. He told me he didn’t need a reference and that his only mission was to identify that I was a real person.

Of course, I had no response except but to laugh and to be honest I thought it was a prank. It wasn’t, his client wanted him to find me and if I existed they wanted to meet me in person.

He arranged the meeting and I went to it.

In the room was the President, head of Human Resources and the Director of Operations for the company. They all shook my hand, we got past all the greetings and then the President begins to tell me about their interview process.

One of the questions they ask candidates:  “of all the leaders you have had the opportunity to work with who do you admire the most and emulate in your own leadership style?”

The President said; she was impressed by what the first candidate had to say about me and why they would copy my leadership style. Of course I felt very flattered.  She went on to say that when they got to the second and third candidates they also mentioned my name and highlighted similar leadership qualities. At this point she and her team were suspicious and believed that they were being setup by a competitor. No surprise they thought that I was a fictitious character conjured up by these people. 

At this point I was speechless, I had no idea that I had such a positive effect on people or even that they thought that highly of me. I am sure you could find others who would have a different point of you about me.

During the meeting, they asked me a lot of questions about management skills and leadership style.

To be fully transparent I have always been an intellectually reserved leader. I don’t believe that great leadership is about genetics, the school you went to or charisma.

I believe that Leadership is about:

  • your work ethics
  • confidence in your own intellect
  • courage
  • integrity
  • the willingness to take risks
  • continuously learning

I was told what the candidates said about me, however I never new their names, I only knew that they never reported to me directly. 

Life is full of moments and when you are in a leadership role, if you mistake your new position as one of control over others you are going to fail as a leader. 

The three worst leadership styles I have ever encountered?

  1. A weak leader who feels under constant threat so they keep their direct reports under constant threat. Firing or threatening to fire people to keep their own shortfalls from being discovered.
  2. A leader that hates confrontation. I have watched leaders who send in human resources to deliver a message that they can’t. You can only imagine what review time is like.
  3. Leaders who are so relationship driven that they minimize their effectiveness and are unable to create change. They measure their success by their own popularity and not the success of the business or their people.

Eventually life tends to stagnate or end those careers very quickly.

When you are in a leadership position, regardless of your role it is about what you leave behind. Every action and word is an impression of who you are and believe it or not you are creating your own legacy. In the end it’s not about what you think you’ve done as a leader, it’s about what others believe that is.

I remember my drive home after that meeting and thinking someone had given me gift. The only way I could repay them was by continuing what I was doing as a leader.

My name is George Minakakis, I am the CEO for Inception Retail Group Inc. I have led retail chains in Canada, USA, Hong Kong and China. I work with retailers and private equity, sometimes as an advisor other times as a CEO partner.  I am also the author of Last Retailer Standing Relevant Leadership Relevant Brand.

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