It takes a good foundation to stay on top

When area leaders were asked what it takes to be out in front, they all agree that leaders have to have something special to rise to the top.

Honesty and integrity rank highly, but education was a minor consideration. In some professions such as government being trustworthy ranks especially high, according to New Jersey State Legislator Assemblyman Troy Singleton.

“Whatever personal ethical level one holds themselves to, when you are bound by oath to represent your community in some fashion it is critically important to raise that bar even higher,” said Singleton.

In the private sector professionalism and visibility is key, according to Roy Fazio, co-owner and chief marketing officer of The Protocall Group. He is always on the lookout for those qualities that make a good leader. He has been with his company for over 40 years, employs over 8,000 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in industries such as IT, Health Care, Industrial, Finance and Accounting. When he is looking for a good leader he said he can sometimes tell right away. He said when you meet somebody you get that feeling that they would make a good leader, but you have to observe how they interact over time.

“You are looking for people that carry themselves with a professionalism. You want somebody outgoing, with a strong personality but they also need empathy,” said Fazio.

Personally, he said he thinks good leadership is also being involved in the community. He has been on the board of Liberty Bell Bank, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and coached at a summer collegiate baseball program for 11 years.

Brett Michener, CEO of M&M Physical Therapy of New Jersey and the Golf Performance Institute said that he thinks becoming a good leader is based on making errors and having the ability to introspect and at times be humble.

“You have to be a leader out in front, have the ego to be in charge, but a good leader is also able to eat humble pie and really ask for guidance when they need it,” said Michener.

For his personal business he runs lean. In the physical therapy setting he wants everybody to be able to handle all aspects of customer care. He said he looks for people with a sense of autonomy, meaning that everybody knows how to schedule an appointment, grab an ice pack or snip the bands, but he said, if there was just one thing he had to look for in a leader it would be integrity.

“Your word should mean something,” said Michener. “When I give my word I mean it. If I tell you I’m going to do something by a certain date and time, it’s going to happen.”

Singleton said standing by your word is equally important in politics. He said he learned early when running for office that the ideas that he presents and the positions that he takes are a reflection of who he is as a person. “And, if I place an unwavering premium on making honest and ethical behavior a cornerstone of who I am as an elected official, then I will be given the chance to be a leader in my community.”

Michener said that some aspects of leadership can be learned. If he finds somebody with self-drive they can be groomed to learn the correct management skills. He said companies have to look for that inner spark before promoting, because one of the worst mistakes a company can make is to promote based on seniority and not based on skill.

Fazio agreed, saying nobody starts out a leader, but some people are born with leadership qualities.

“For those who are born leaders it doesn’t matter what their education is. It could be an important part of their lives but it’s on the lower end of the spectrum,” Fazio said. “In the end a leader has to be able to serve people.”