Leadership Is Not White-Collar Only
In the past week I have been marinated in thought as to leadership in vocational, trades, and so-called “blue-collar” careers.
My wife and I love to read postings from Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame and a proponent of trades and blue collar jobs. Last week a high school classmate who is a skilled master plasterer posted an article about the need for a return for vocational training in schools across America. And this past Sunday two good friends of mine from church, one of which is a cobbler, discussed the need for young workers to understand the dignity and possibilities of trade and vocational careers in both the local community and the global economy.
We tout the need for a higher echelon of leadership in our world, but this past week has reminded me of something I believe and want to share with everyone:
Leadership is not just a “white-collar” job
When one thinks of leadership there’s usually a picture of conference rooms, offices, and training centers indicating managers and executive staff are the leaders we talk about. But we would be remiss to not apply our thinking and inclusion on those who work more hands-on in their chosen careers, whether or not they lead large amounts of people.
My friend Jim, the cobbler, is very much a leader in this field. A former financial advisor, he bought a cobbler shop a number of years ago and has gone to great lengths in the community to raise the awareness of supporting local businesses and artisan trades. His is an example of leadership that does not include formal strategic planning and committee meetings. Instead, his leadership stems from a desire to see people value craftsmanship, hard work, and community support for men and women who own small businesses, whether barber shops, floral studios, or music stores.
Think for a moment about the person who is an independent contractor as a plumber, or a hairstylist or food truck vendor. These hard working folks set an example for us daily in reliability, learning their craft, and making sure the job gets done. There is a plan each day, organizational skills, and marketing strategies each uses to bring in clients, find the right location, and set a point of differentiation in the quality of work they do (their brand).
They may even have a handful of employees working for them, and need to develop their skills, hire, and learn how to properly connect and engage with their people to build a more effective workplace. They may not formally sit at a table and jot down a plan, but through common sense leadership and people skills, they work diligently to promote the abilities of their team. Many times this is done on the fly or through careful thinking of what is needed to grow the business and their people.
Studies show that most people who are leaders for large companies started off as retail cashiers, working in restaurants, helping with carpentry, cleaning hotel rooms, or even having a newspaper route. Numerous podcasts, such as Chris Locurto or Dave Ramsey, show that even the most successful entrepreneurs started with these hands-on jobs. They took the skills needed to do well in those jobs and transformed them into careers they felt they were called to do. But for every successful entrepreneur, there are dozens of successful leaders in the trades who make a solid living and absolutely love what they do as well. Whether creating a corporation or creating a beautiful new home, leaders in all fields love the thrill of building and developing both their calling and their people.
Consider those unheralded leaders in the trades. Thank them for their efforts. They are responsible for our roads, comfort, and safety on a daily basis. Let’s encourage people to seek after these careers and to become dignified “hands-on” leaders.