Running with the ‘Meet and Eat’ Crowd?

How often do you hear an extraordinary presentation? I don’t mean a cartoon-laced Powerpoint deck that makes you chuckle, or a keynote punctuated by slick multimedia clips. By extraordinary, I mean a TED-quality talk by a storyteller who simply takes you on a journey – engaging, intriguing and moving you with their knowledge and passion.

I recently attended a family member’s graduation from The Citadel, Charleston’s prestigious military college. I was inspired to see many 2015 graduates recognized with academic honors and commissions to serve in our U.S. Armed Forces. It was a day that warranted a masterful commencement address.

Commencement speaker W. Keller Kissam, Senior Vice President at SCANA Corporation and President of SCE&G’s Retail Operations, was riveting. No fanfare, no props and barely a glance at his notes. His presentation reinforced the importance of expressing a clear message with authenticity and passion.

Kissam, a Citadel grad who moments earlier was recognized with an honorary Doctorate degree, shared many leadership lessons that are as relevant in the business world as they are to young men and women beginning their careers.

Lesson 1: Don’t Give to Get

One of my favorite moments came around ten minutes in when Kissam described two types of leaders: those with “position power” versus those with “people power.”

He said: “People come to me and ask me what do you look for in a leader to promote in your company. Number one is how they treat people who can’t do a dang thing for them. And the second thing: good judgment.”

I asked myself, how often do I do something for someone with the expectation that I can cash in that favor? My hope in sharing Kissam’s quote is that he inspires you, as he has me, to “give to give.”

Lesson 2: Don’t Run With the ‘Meet & Eat’ Crowd

Another powerful theme was being a real leader.

Kissam said, “As a leader, to earn respect, make a decision. Efficiently gather your facts, but people are looking at you to be decisive. Across corporate America today, nobody can make a decision without a team or a committee. I call it the ‘meet and eat crowd’ because that seems like all they do. Gather your facts and make a decision, and when you make that decision, enforce it firmly, fairly and consistently.”

Fitting lessons from a guy who is responsible for keeping the power on across an entire state in Hurricane season, while facing incredible challenges with his other full time job as a Dad.

Kissam’s presentation, available from The Citadel’s website and on YouTube, is well worth a listen for you and future leaders who are special in your life:

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Joanna Rustin is CEO of Rustin Communications, a firm that helps high-growth companies build a larger-than-life market presence. @joanna_rustin 

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