Paul Butler: How do you select your role models at work?

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

By Paul Butler, for The Signal

Last week, my wife and I served as volunteers for the fourth consecutive year at the “Royal Family Kids Camp,” which is for children between the ages of 7-11 who are in the foster care system.
It’s a very tiring week but a very rewarding one, helping these little ones who have been let down by those that should have loved them the most. The week is made significantly easier due to the quality of leadership we have in Ken.

Ken is also a volunteer — in fact, every one of the 85 adults who served the 53 children last week are volunteers.

Ken is a retired cop and, in my assessment, is perhaps one of the greatest leaders I have had the honor of serving and supporting, both in my working life and my time serving as a volunteer. No one is perfect of course, but allow me to share with you why I believe Ken is such a great leader.

Ken loves what he does — he is 100 percent fired up about the mission and values of the Royal Family Kids organization. If I would have served under leaders in the corporate world half as on fire, I would have been delighted to work for them.

Ken is a good communicator — he is concise yet clear. My observation has been that many leaders in the working world are so wrapped up in their own self-importance and are so set on impressing others; they are very wordy and intentionally ambiguous.

Ken is a hard worker — he leads by doing. Most leaders I have worked for are lazy and prefer the privileges of being a senior leader. Mark Twain once said, “Nothing motivates a person more than seeing their boss put in an honest day’s work.” I have found this to be so true. Ken gets maximum effort from me.

Ken plans ahead — he proactively thinks beyond the immediacy.

Conversely, I have observed how most mediocre managers get caught up in the urgency of the latest problem.

Ken genuinely expresses gratitude — he sincerely thanks people for a job well done and catches people giving their best efforts. Most managers I have observed don’t like to praise others. They fear that the light will shine brighter on the other person and therefore, they themselves will lose some of the glory. I have also noticed that most mediocre managers would rather lead by instilling fear into their subordinates rather than be all “touchy-feely” with praise and recognition of other’s efforts.

Ken listens well to his workers — even though he has been leading the camp for 18 years, he listens exceptionally well to the comments, ideas and suggestions of even the newest volunteer. Whereas, I have sadly observed that the majority of leaders are poor listeners and, in fact, demonstrate a rather selfish streak, as they tend to only listen to what benefits them. Most certainly, I have observed that most senior leaders have little regard for those below them in tenure or rank.

Ken is very solution-minded — he solves problems. On the other hand, I have observed how poor managers will look for someone else to blame and will often try and work around, rather than solve the problem figuring that “someone else, someday” will make it right.

Ken is just a nice guy to be around. I can’t say this for most leaders I have worked for or have observed in the 215 organizations we’ve served over the last 12 years at Newleaf Training and Development around the globe. I’d socialize with Ken. I’d enjoy an adult beverage with Ken. Most leaders I have worked for, or have observed are self-centered, arrogant and deceptive — I’m glad to get home after being around them.

So if you’re a supervisor, manager or senior leader — be like Ken. If you own a company — be like Ken and try and build your leadership culture to be like Ken. Its not complicated — its common sense really. If only more leaders were like Ken, I believe the world of work would be a better place.

To recap — love what you do; learn to communicate well; be a hard worker; plan ahead; genuinely express gratitude; listen well; be solution-minded and simply, be an overall nice person to be around.

In short — be like Ken.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at

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