What Constitutes a Leader

What Constitutes a Leader
Celebrating Alarm Industry Leaders

by Ron Davis, NBFAA Newsline, 2008 Vol. 4
I jumped into writing this article with unbridled enthusiasm, unlimited energy and a decided lack of real, hard knowledge on what constitutes a “leader.” Sure, we can look around and see people who are in positions of leadership, but when asked to define what a leader really is, we may be hard pressed to come up with an answer. As I sat with a blank sheet of paper with thoughts about who and what was a leader, I realized that I had not formulated the correct definition. Take a look around you – Mike Miller, Merlin Guilbeau, Scott Colby, Bud Wulforst, George Gunning — all leaders, but can you define what it is that makes them a leader? I set out to find the answer to that question, and came up with 10 qualities that all of these leaders seem to have in common. See if you agree with me.
1. Honesty
The late motivational and success expert, Napoleon Hill, had this to say about honesty: “Understand this law and you will know, beyond room for the slightest doubt, that you are constantly punishing yourself for every wrong you commit and rewarding yourself for every act of constructive conduct in which you indulge.” Mr. Hill understood the value of honesty in all of the selfish ways an individual can. It helps you to understand that credibility…or as we call it, honesty…is earned over and over again, but is lost only once. Look around you at the people that you admire most, and the chances are that one of the major attributes you ascribe to them is the word “honesty.”
2. Courage
“Courage is the capacity to confront what can be imagined…” Leo Ross. And Mark Twain said that “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” The real leaders of this industry are courageous in the sense that they follow their dreams, their passion and their vision. When others say “it cannot be done” leaders say “I will try, I will overcome.” And they usually do.
3. Expectancy
Rich DeVos, the founder of Amway once said: “Life, it tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” And Richard Bach said: “Sooner or later those who win are those who think they can.” Leaders have an air of expectancy about them. I remember talking with Leo uthart, former Chairman of Ademco, back in the 80’s. Ademco was having quality control problems, and  Guthart decided to stop all outside activities until the problems were solved. He had an air of positive expectancy. He set about the task of doing what he had to do and two years later, Ademco became the leading manufacturer in the security industry. In fact, it was so good that Honeywell bought them and Ademco, a little manufacturing company out in Long Island, became one of their most successful operations.
4. Service
Wynn Davis in his book on “The Best of Success” had this to say about service: “No one achieves greatness without being at service. Service is the essence of greatness. All great men and women become great because they gave some talent or ability in the service of others. No matter how small our talent, we too can contribute in some way to others, we too can become great!” A couple of leaders come to mind when looking over this definition of service: Merlin Guilbeau and Steve Doyle, directors, respectively, of the NBFAA and the CSAA. Both of them are respected by both their peers and the associations they manage. Both of them have dedicated their lives to serving the needs of the membership, and both are successful.
5. Imagination
My old boss, Earl Nightingale, once said: “Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as having already achieved this goal. See yourself doing the things you’ll be doing when you’ve reached your goal.” Earl, who at the time was considered the dean of personal motivation, was a master of imagining. I remember back in the early 60’s when he spoke to a group of fire alarm, door-to-door sales people. He fired them up by saying: “Imagine what it would be like when you reach 10,000 systems a week and all of the lives you will have saved.” A year later, that company was selling that many fire alarms each week. Ten times more than anyone had dared to imagine before Earl’s speech.
6. Faith
Not the kind of faith that religion provides us, but the kind of faith that we have in our own destinies. Stan Martin, the industry’s leading proponent on industry matters that need national attention, is certainly a good example of this. He has not only the faith of a true believer, but the faith to know that he is good enough to get that message across throughout the industry. Or as Jonathon Swift said: “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.”
7. Motivation
Remember, Henry David Thoreau wrote these famous words: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music whichhe hears, however measured or far away.” Any time you see a successful person doing something that others around him are not, look to the motivation of that person. Then, look to the inner core about the goals that you set for yourself. And by the way, Tom Hopkins said: “Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority!”

8. Persistence
The guy to which many of us owe our careers, Thomas A. Edison, once said: “When I’ve fully decided that a result is worth getting, I go ahead on it and make trial after trial until it comes.” Rich DeVos went on to say: “If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down 70 times and get up off the floor saying, here comes number 71!”
9. Habit
Or as Vince Lombardi once said: “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” Ask Stanley Oppenheimer about that, he’s built one of the most successful companies in the industry…and even today, he is in the “habit” of doing the same things he did in building his businesses.
10. Excellence
The founder of Marshall Field and Company, Marshall Field, had this to say about excellence: “To do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way; to do some things better than they were ever done before; to eliminate errors; to know both sides of the question; to be courteous; to be an example; to work for the love of work; to anticipate requirements; to develop resources; to recognize no impediments; to master circumstances; to act from reason rather than rule; to be satisfied with nothing short of perfection.”