Paul Butler: Make a contribution

Paul Butler
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Last night, I had the honor of facilitating a leadership seminar for the Santa Clarita Valley Jaycees. For those of you who’ve not heard of them, they are a leadership and civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 40.

I encouraged the Jaycees to consider the contribution they want to make as leaders. See, mediocre managers don’t think about giving — they think about taking. Conversely, great leaders think of others, much more than they think of themselves.

When I look back and consider the people I worked for prior to starting our own business, I can clearly see two types of boss — mediocre managers and great leaders.

Management is an industrial age term, when the primary asset value of organizations was machines and other capital. We’re now in what we call the information age or the knowledge worker age — where the primary asset value of organizations is the intellectual property created through, and by, talented people.

The trouble is, some supervisors try and manage as if it’s still the industrial age. Management by its very nature is about control. If you think you manage people, you’re sadly mistaken.

People innately do not like to be managed. We manage things, and we lead people. If they trust us, people are open to our leadership. Trust is the commodity between people.

Humans are four-dimensional — the body, the heart, the mind and the spirit or the soul. Things are just one-dimensional — the physical. The thing with things is that they don’t think.

For example, the air conditioning system needs to be managed and controlled. Great leaders understand how to bring out the very best in people — to get them fired up on all four cylinders.

Great leaders want to contribute by investing in people. Rather like a good gardener, they understand the life is in the seed, and their job is to create the most optimal conditions for the garden to grow.

Great leaders take time to ask the opinion of others and, in doing so, they are tapping into the intellectual capacity of their people — the mind.

They invest time to ensure people are placed in positions where their passion for their work can flourish — the heart.

They’re keen to inspire people to consider the legacy they want to leave — the difference they want to make to improve matters — this could be the spirit or the soul at work.

Great leaders ensure they’re creating the right environment for their people to thrive and influence matters to make sure that people are rewarded and looked after well — that’s the physical dimension.

Great leadership is very similar to being a good gardener.

My father-in-law in England is a wonderful gardener. I remember a couple of summers back, visiting and walking around his garden that’s been tenderly loved and nurtured for nearly six decades now, and commenting on the beauty and orderliness of the gardens.

My father-in-law made a rather profound statement that stuck with me. He said: “Paul, the life is in the seed. My job as the gardener is to tend the garden. Sometimes, I have to move plants. Sometimes, they need more water. Sometimes they need me to provide a stilt to support their growth. On occasion, a plant may need more time in the sun or less. I constantly weed, though, because, left alone, decay creeps in. My contribution is to tend the garden so it doesn’t decay.”

Peter Drucker, the late eminent Austrian professor who served at the Claremont colleges for many years, said something similar about the human condition within the gardens of the workplace: “The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are discordance, disharmony and distrust — great leaders set out to create and sustain an intentional culture.”

So, thank you, Jaycees — I was reminded last night of the noble, honorable responsibility to manage yourself and to lead others well. I hope I spoke into some timeless, objective and universal principles last night that will encourage you for many years to come in your contribution as a leader — not only in your workplaces but also your homes, and within the communities you choose to serve.

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 newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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