Being Prepared When Called on Stage

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-Perhaps the most difficult thing about leadership is that leaders never know when they will be called on stage. And then when called upon, the leadership required might not be popular, said Debbie Wood, general manager-Marketing and Industry Research with Jack Henry & Associates, Inc. Below, Ms. Wood shares her insights as part of’s “The Corner.” What intangible of leadership is most difficult to convey or prepare for?

Wood: A big part of leadership is handling difficult situations when issues seem to be drawn to one another; one thing goes wrong and then something else and they all pile on top of one another.  You have to be able to do a quick unemotional assessment, prioritize, provide direction and stay calm all at the same time. Employees need to see leadership with purpose and assurance, and they need to know that you have not only the best interest of the company but also their best interest at heart.

Or perhaps it’s the way in which your integrity is called onto the stage.   Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t the most popular thing.  A decision to redo a project because it doesn’t meet the high standards for which the company is known or having to call a client to say we made a mistake is difficult, but always being true to yourself and to the company pays off in the end. Are you a fan of a management book or books? If not, why not. If so, which have resonated with you and why?

Wood: I’m absolutely a fan of any experience that inspires, teaches or opens your eyes and thoughts to new opportunities; not just books but meaningful conversations with industry leaders and visionaries. 

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Of course, the old standby reads from Jim Collins and Steven Covey are always great, but some more recent ones that I’ve either read or are on my nightstand include “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek; “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” by Patrick Lencioni; and more true to my marketing roots, “Disciplined Dreaming” by Josh Linkner. Innovation: four syllables getting all the attention. Deservedly so? If so, can you really drive innovation? Or is it coming at the cost of implementation and delivery?

Wood: If we took a little historical trip, we would find the word ‘Innovation’ gets very popular particularly after a fallen economy and the subsequent upswing.   It’s inspirational the way we dust ourselves off when we can no longer do the things we used to do and instead find new ways to improve them.

Many people have that wonderful talent of looking at something and instead of asking “why?,” they say “what if?,” and then they just go do it.  There’s usually a good healthy dose of common sense in innovation.  Have you ever been in a room full of people who are untethered by rules and allowed just to think about “what if”? It’s a magical thing.  Bottom line -- we drive innovation by not only allowing our associates the freedom to dream and try new things, but also by making it a part of their responsibility to question status quo. If you could go back and talk to You On The First Day On The Job, what advice do you share?

Wood: You will make mistakes, and some will be whoppers. Deal with them head on, figure out what went wrong, what you need to do to fix them, do it, take steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again, and then move on.

There is one constant – change.  Get used to it, embrace it, learn how to be flexible, make it your friend.

Jack Henry and Jerry Hall taught us, “Do the right thing always – for the customer, for the company, for yourself. Do whatever it takes – go the extra mile, do more than the next person; and Have fun – Laugh ... a lot.  It puts things in perspective.” My Keeps-Me-Up-At-Night concern is? Why? And My-Let’s-Me-Sleep-At-Night optimism is?

Wood: I have an awesome team of marketing professionals reporting to me.   At this point in my career, I want to make sure that I’m not only nurturing leaders but I’m also helping those leaders develop leaders who will continue to carry our company’s success forward long after I’m gone.  So I fret about if I’m doing enough to foster their growth and create new opportunities for them. 

As far as optimism, I’m full of it!  I sleep pretty well at night with the knowledge that no matter what happens, the next day is always going to bring something new, something fresh, something exciting and challenging and of course, fun.  I work for absolutely the best company in our industry with the best clients surrounded by the best team. 

Section: Standard
Word Count: 988
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Copyright Year: 2019
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