Leadership: Where has it gone?

Frustration seems to hit a new high everyday at work. If it’s not one things, it’s something else. Tonight, it was a blackout issue in the Los Angeles area that caused adverse conditions and many late issues we had to deal with. I walked into the proverbial “shit storm” with the manager not really keep up with the state of the operation. Okay, the operation was a complete SNAFU, not knowing what was coming or going. This seems to happen every summer, although not due to these exact conditions that caused a power issue in Southern California.

Leadership as defined by Merriam-Webster is,

(1) the office or position of a leader, (2) capacity to lead and (3) the act or an instance of leading.

Now, I will be the first to say my leadership skills have degraded over the years, partly due to the fact I [or any of my peers] have no one to supervise! With that said, I feel I make competent, strong leadership decisions when I am involved in the operation. These range from decisions that either good for business, operations or customer service based. but leadership is something that should come from the top down, unfortunately its lacking.

As I have seen elsewhere, once a manager gets into an upper management position, they try to surround themselves with their cronies. Unfortunately, we are seeing that now and it really gets frustrating when people are “rewarded” [read given] a management position because of this. Department managers are supposed to make their managers can “lead and direct” the department, making good operational decisions. But what happens who those managers seem to be in over their heads and hesitate on making those crucial decisions?

Now, I have been fortunate in the past to work under two great managers [and one department manager]. Back in Los Angeles, little beknownst to me there was a department manager named Jim who knew how to get the most out of his supervisors [like me]. While he was not the most personal of people, he knew how to lead and motivate someone like myself, who at times would need a kick in the ass to get my pointed in the right direction. He would call me into his office at times and we would talk and I would always walk out feeling good about myself, the job I was doing and the company. He then decided to retire, leaving a void in our department. Of course, now some 4 years later I realize just how good of a manager he was.

I report directly a shift manager as a supervisor and while in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to work for a very good manager named Bob, who had 30+ years of experience and knew how to run an operation. He was always one step ahead of the operation, knowing what decisions had to be made and making the most of his people. To this day, I still keep in touch with Bob on a daily basis asking for his input in these difficult times.

The other manager, whom I consider to be my mentor is Ken. It’s always difficult to see someone with his character leave the company. To be honest, I would have followed Ken anywhere in our company, he was that good of a leader! While it was somewhat difficult to peg him down when I first got to San Francisco [he reminded me of Drew Carey, but looked difficult to work with], but within a few days that all changed. He was straight with us, he came out and said, “I don’t know how to run an operation” and that struck me odd. But what I later found out working with him was he had confidence in his people to do their job as operational supervisors. Ken was a true people person, always being able to approach people, talk to them and get the most out of them. As I said, I would go to the ends of the earth to do my best for Ken.

Since his departure and mine from Los Angeles it has been very difficult to turn to our current managers for their opinions or input on decisions. Why? They are all wet behind the ears when it comes to operational decisions. Sure they will consider themselves “leaders” but I have not seen any of them act like a leader. No longer are they personable, it’s memos, enotes and e-mail to convey their thoughts. You never hear words of praise, its always [after the fact] you did this wrong or could do this differently. *shakes head*

I look back and think of it as a blessing in disguise that I was not given the opportunity to be a manager in my current department. Outside of not being fully compensated [thanks Chapter 11 & 9-11] for the job you do. Honestly, working the midnight shift now I see an additional 10% for shift differential, potentially the same sort of raise I could have been given if I were offered a shift manager job. Not a full 10%, but potentially that much. But like everything else, there is more to a job than money [although that is quite important]. It’s the job satisfaction that also keeps you coming back for me and for me, that has long since departed.

While I still come to work, I cannot say I give it 110% any longer because I don’t have to in order to be successful in what I do. That’s not the right attitude to have, but its the honest truth. It’s also wrong to think of it as, “well they took 30% of my pay, so I will work 30% less.” But that is how I have felt for almost as long as I can remember.

Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in what I do because I have been doing it for 11 years and I’m good at my job. It is nearing the time to jump ship as that iceberg is approaching. Many people have wished me well with my upcoming interview at BART. I only hope I don’t let myself down, this is a great opportunity and a much needed change. I feel confident and that this is my destiny [sounds corny, I know]. There has been just too many things to go right along the way since I met Paula and got the ball rolling. Hopefully within a few days, I will be closing the chapter on part of my life and opening a new one.

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