Garmon gives leadership tips in Rotarian address

Posted 9/8/17

Dr. Fred Garmon, who for 11 years was executive director of local nonprofit People for Care and Learning, gave some leadership tips to members of the Cleveland Rotary Club on Tuesday.

He is …

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Garmon gives leadership tips in Rotarian address


Dr. Fred Garmon, who for 11 years was executive director of local nonprofit People for Care and Learning, gave some leadership tips to members of the Cleveland Rotary Club on Tuesday.

He is now known as the founder and president of LeaderLabs Inc., a company which offers leadership seminars all across the country.

Garmon said he believes there is a “crisis” of leadership in this country, with many leaders lacking either good character or competence.

“Leadership is something you can learn,” Garmon said. “I fully believe that; that is why I do what I do.” 

He explained what he referred to as the “three variables” of leadership — the leader, the follower and the situation.

While a follower might not be the one in a position of leadership, he noted that followers make leaders who they are. The first follower has the biggest power to turn an idea about the situation at hand into a movement.

“There is no movement without the first followers,” Garmon said.

He suggested would-be leaders make themselves “easy to follow.” They should be open with their ideas and eager to build relationships with people who can help bring those ideas to life.

But first, he said a leader should be aware of how he or she sees the world and how his or her skills fit into it. Noting that a person’s personality often shapes his or her world view, Garmon said he will often have people attending his trainings take personality tests.

The brain is a funny thing, he noted. Once a person has a certain idea in his or her head, it can be difficult to change. A good leader, he stressed, is willing to change.

Knowing one’s own values and leadership style is “the No. 1 prerequisite for effective leadership,” he added.

On the same token, he emphasized the importance of knowing which leadership style one’s followers need the most.

“This is the No. 1 mistake when we lead: we attempt to lead everyone the same way,” Garmon said.

He outlined two major models for leadership — directing and supporting — and theorized that every leader “is pouring from at least one of those buckets.” 

A leader who directs is primarily results-driven, while someone who supports is more concerned with relationships.

“You need to be pouring out of both buckets,” said Garmon.

Most people are stuck in one style, but one can learn to adapt to followers’ needs. He suggested taking the time to “diagnose” which leadership style will best inspire someone.

Different followers may need to be led in different ways. Some people need relational support more than they need technical direction, or vice versa.

Garmon repeatedly emphasized the importance of “self-development,” of taking the time to learn to become a good leader. He noted that not everyone in a position of leadership is ready to lead.  

“Just because you have a title and a corner office, that does not make you a leader,” Garmon said. “What you have there is often a manager.” 

Managers, he said, focus on their followers handling day-to-day technical issues and “maintaining the status quo.” True leaders focus on “casting vision and inspiring their people to excel.” 

He said people often underestimate just how important it is for leaders to figure out how they lead and how their followers need them to lead. Emphasizing the importance of relationships, he noted that intelligence and skills can help you move up the proverbial ladder, but having good people skills “can keep you there.” 

“When you talk about leadership, you’re talking about people,” Garmon said. “It’s not just about skill; it’s about relationships.” 


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