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Leadership Success Often Requires Flexibility

Effective leadership should be selective, nurturing and above all flexible, according to three proven leaders who comprised the Doniphan Dialogue panel at iWerx Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Development Center March 31.

Sponsored by the Doniphan Leadership Institute and the Clay County Economic Development Council, the gathering of more than 50 people focused on “Situational Leadership in the Workplace.” The speakers were Kay Barnes, former Mayor City of Kansas City; Dr. Ted Thomas, Director of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth; and Fred Ellermeier, vice president and Chief Operating Officer of Smart Integrated Infrastructure for Black & Veatch. Lisa McIntire, vice president, Commercial Banking relationship manager at Arvest Bank, moderated the conversation.

Thomas set the tone by noting situational leadership is not an option, but added that leaders must also be willing to learn. “The question is not if you would use it, but why you would not use it. You have to bring in the best people and you have to make it safe to fail. Many times, we only really learn from our failures.”

Barnes recalled the Hyatt Regency disaster and the actions of then-Mayor Richard L. Berkley. “What always impressed me was his ability to build consensus and collaborate,” she said. “But in the Hyatt tragedy, he was able to move to a leadership style where he made quick decisions and delegated. It was what he had to do for that situation, and he did it very well.”

Ellermeier began by noting that delegation is critical for every aspect of leadership. “It all starts in getting the right people and going from there,” he said.

A veteran of several large overseas projects, Ellermeier has observed numerous styles of leadership. “In the United States, there is sometimes a mentality that lacks trust,” he said. “There’s a thought that, ‘If I’m not doing it, it won’t get done right.’ That doesn’t always work.”

The Doniphan Dialogue series of special presentations offer insight and advice from some of the Midwest’s top leaders. Held twice each year, the program is coordinated by the Doniphan Leadership Institute, which was founded by the Clay County Economic Development Council and the Pryor Center for Leadership Studies at William Jewell College. For more information, visit www.clayedc.com/Doniphan.

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