My take on leadership

Dec 30, 2019

Exercise these 12 roles with care and you will be surprised by how many admire and understand why your firm has grown so successfully.

Recently, I received an article about a project in my hometown of Longview, Texas, regarding efforts to restore the historic cabin used for meetings by Boy Scout Troop 201, of which I was a member. It is the oldest troop in the state of Texas currently celebrating its 102nd anniversary. We even had Texas Governor Abbott as a member. And now they have me as a volunteer assisting in the effort to restore this important symbol of my youth.

I entered Troop 201 at age 11 as a Tenderfoot and left at age 17 as an Eagle Scout and Senior Patrol Leader, the top youth leadership position. In addition to the normal Scouting activities, I also attended multiple leadership development courses as both a student and an instructor. It was through these experiences and the examples set by Mr. V.G. Rollins, our scoutmaster, that I had my first exposure to leadership and the traits of a good leader.

Fast forward and now I am CEO of JQ Engineering. In that capacity, I wear many different hats and assume many different roles as the leader of the firm. However, the roles are not radically different than those engrained in me during my youth. Not surprisingly, just like the 12 principles of the Scout Law, I have identified 12 roles that reflect the responsibility and value of being an effective leader, and how we as leaders should treat others in positive and tangible ways.

  1. Teacher. Be a teacher for all the life experiences you have had at work, ranging from technical to management to business development skills. Transferring your knowledge to others is the first step to building your firm’s culture and your legacy.
  2. Student. No matter how old you get, you should still strive to be a lifetime learner. A good student is also adept at listening as there is nothing more valuable than gathering input from differing viewpoints. This is the first step to personal and professional growth.
  3. Realist. You must be realistic about your skills and those of your team. Knowing where you are strong and where you are weak allows you to bring in the talent that will provide a synergy important for client acquisition and retention.
  4. Visionary. “What if” is probably the most powerful question you can ask as the answer allows you to shape the future. Helping to create and communicate the vision of where you want to go is a critical role of a good leader.
  5. First responder. Culturally, we value the first responder and their ability to put others ahead of themselves. We honor those who run toward the problem, not away from it. Leaders are often faced with hurdles to overcome and effective leaders do not hide from threats but address them head on.
  6. Housekeeper. Like it or not, it is also your job to clean up the messes. We are paid to do just that, not to blame those who created the mess. Finger pointing is a sign of a weak leader. Accepting responsibility is not.
  7. Servant. There is value in being humble and you need to remember that you are here to help others reach their maximum potential. Therefore, we need to put our egos aside and allow our team members to excel, becoming relevant and integral to the projects and clients we have cultivated.
  8. Friend. You cannot be an isolationist. Having a good network, building relationships outside the work environment, and being open to sharing challenges and concerns are part of being a leader. Your closest peers will tell you what problems you have and also help you get through them.
  9. Protector. The minute you throw someone under the bus in front of others, you have lost the trust of everyone in the firm. As a leader, take responsibility for the actions of your team. You have to stand up with them and for them so as not to leave them hanging.
  10. Cheerleader. This is the fun part of the job. Focus on the positive and celebrate all the things you do well as a firm, in the community, within the industry, and as individuals.
  11. Innovator. Maintaining the status quo is not how successful teams operate. You need to constantly innovate your process and evaluate new technologies and systems. And do not shy from capitalizing on the collaborative energy and mindset of those who are younger and less experienced than you. Never be fearful of change because it is usually the source of real progress.
  12. Example. No one will do what you say if you do not do it yourself. Support your mission statement through your actions and interactions. Make the right decisions not just the easy decisions. Even doing the mundane tasks like logging your billable time demonstrates your respect for doing things right.

No doubt, each of these roles requires a thoughtful and consistent approach. While 12 may seem like a lot of hats to wear, the satisfaction of performing each of these well more than offsets the effort. Exercise these roles carefully, both inside your company and for the greater community to see, and you will be surprised at how many admire and understand why your firm has grown so successfully.

Stephen Lucy is CEO of JQ with offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock and San Antonio, Texas. Contact him at

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