• Mark Olivito

The Old School Leader: Dirt Under Nails Required, Polish Optional


Give him a pass, he’s Old School! Watch out, he’s old school! What do you expect, he’s old school!

And multiple other spins on this saying. Sometimes “Old School” has a negative connotation, sometimes there is a respectful deference. Sometimes it’s generational in context, when the young guns coming out of college, now have to interact with peers with 20+ years of experience. Generational differences are intriguing, and also provide for great workplace entertainment!

The Old School vs. New School is a phenomena that is all around us, whether in in business, your local community groups, your neighborhood. If its not direct AGE difference, there are mind-set differences driven by Old School/New School Mind-Sets.

Here’s my take:

I view Old School as nothing but ROCK SOLID.

A respect for FUNDAMENTALS. HARD WORK. I think about Dirt under the fingernails, which comes from being close to the real work.

I think about the Store Manager who is not afraid to pick garbage off the floor or stock a shelf when needed. They are equally as comfortable doing the real work as managing the work. In other words, they are described as a DOER, not the Prima Donna. Why is the DOER critical? Simple: Nothing demotivates a workplace more than the manager that uses delegation as a means of efficiency (getting it “off their plate”) vs developing the people they lead. Both can be accomplished simultaneously, but the developing side of delegation must be more important.

The old school LEADER earns respect from the people they lead, because of the example they set. They simply wouldn’t ask their teams to do anything they either have not done, or would not do themselves.

In business, names like Jack Welch (GE), Herb Kelleher (co-founder of Southwest Airlines) and Sam Walton (Founder of Wal-Mart) come to mind. I’m sure many others come to your mind, and I’d love to hear them with your comments.

The Old School leader has ingrained in their DNA “fundamentals that matter.”

They respect and honor what works, what is proven, yet they never stop learning new techniques to “Sharpen the Saw” as the late, great Stephen Covey wrote about in THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

This is NOT about that rare “old dog that is able to learn new tricks.” It’s about RESULTS, because that is what matters.

In business there are personal traits that are closely linked with great leadership.

For me, Old School traits are at the top of the list. I also think HUSTLE. And OPTIMISM.

Have you ever seen out of this world results from a lazy pessimist?

Of course not!

Give me someone with dirt under his/her nails, that sees potential, where others see road blocks, that has rock solid old school fundamentals. There’s the person that will generate results….and make people better in the process.

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