There are people who are honored. And then there are people who honor others.
One of the first clients I had when I launched 360Connext almost 3 years ago was Leana Flowers, Chief Human Resources Officer at Shore Bank. Leana and I tackled a few tricky situations together. In 2009, if you recall, the economy, the financial industry and the real estate market were taking a pretty good beating. Throughout all the ups and downs, Leana continued to not only guide with optimism, but shine a light on anyone she thought was deserving. Shore Bank, like so many of our financial institutions, has gone through a transformation and no longer exists as that brand. Leana, after years of service, gracefully retired a few weeks ago.
She was kind enough to include me in her retirement party.
I can’t even describe the level of admiration, respect, and true adoration that was in the room. This wasn’t a simple soiree to send off a long-term employee. This, my friends, was true magic.
I’ve been thinking about that night a lot recently – the speeches (there were many), the introductions (How do you know Leana? was the opener) and the incredible modesty Leana showed throughout all of it.
The magic of Leana really is magic. The way she connected people with purpose is a gift, truly. There are lessons, however, to anyone who wants to lead.
Lessons in leadership, Leana style.
1. Be true.
Leana is Leana is Leana. She never faked it or tried to fit in. She broke pretty much every mold out there and could easily fit into any group because of it. After our first meeting, she hugged me. I learned quickly – that’s who she is.
2. Find the best in people.
Her team was diverse in every way you could name, including learning and communications styles. Instead of declaring one way “right,” Leana would find ways to pull out the best in her people. She would seek it out, nurture it, and help find ways to overcome the challenges.
3. Say it like it is.
As much as she pulled out the best in people, she also wasn’t afraid to say she didn’t like something, thought differently, or wanted to go another way. She said this directly and respectfully. The listener knew what she meant without feeling hurt or dismissed.
4. Leader, know thyself.
Leana knew how she learned, worked, and led. She understood her own strengths and weaknesses. She wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
5. Care about the big picture.
It was common to have a conversation with Leana that ended up on a bigger topic. Small steps lead to big things. She communicated this with every word, because she never lost the connection of what everyone was working for. It’s unusual to see a leader who is clearly responsible for what happens INSIDE the organization (HR) care so much about what happens on the outside. Connecting the dots between what she and her team did every day to the overall customer experience was a specialty of hers. Inspiring, to say the least.
Leana is special. The many people who approached the microphone to share their stories about her at her reception just emphasized that.
I hope I don’t embarrass her by writing this, but being a part of that celebration of not only her career but HER was something I’ll cherish for a long time. So, finally, I just wanted to say THANK YOU to Leana. I’m so grateful for so much.