Company Culture: Leadership
It sat there and stared at them. Well, the tank didn’t have eyes, but if it did, it would have been staring at them like an overgrown, gorged hippo.
One of them lifted his hand off his mouth as if to say something and then put it back. The someone said, “We could get another fork lift.”
His words flopped out of his mouth and hit the ground like a dead fish. Everyone stared at him sideways long enough for him to realize how absurd his statement was. Trying to lift a huge tank with a forklift so they could weld it was one thing. Trying to use two forklifts to lift that same tank was a sure-fire way to make a leaky tank or impale someone (see Forklift Driver Klaus at 7:06 to see what I mean).
Unfortunately, we were kind of in a hard spot. We had just taken on a huge project and the tanks we were going to be building were only going to get bigger. We had a brand-new, big space, but what we needed was a brand-new, big idea. And that’s just what we got.
We were going to build a crane.
How It Happened
The idea of putting a crane in our building was, in the best sense of the word, adventurous. It was decided that if we were going to be the company that we needed to be in order to make the tanks we wanted to make, we needed to have the right equipment. The problem was that we were not set up to install anything like that, and having someone come in and install something like that would cost Bill Gate’s son his allowance for three months.
And then things started to look like Lord of the Rings.
We had guys in the shop who were like, “We can do it. We’ve actually done stuff like this before.” Then the welders were like, “You can have our torches,” and the polishers were like, “and our grinders” and then the short guy with a beard was like, “and my back!”
A few months later, we had a working crane, I-beam supports and all, installed and running on the factory floor.
It’s a Story of Good Leadership
The point of this story is neither to show how awesome we are for working as a team, nor how cool we are for saving oodles of money on a do-it-yourself project. The point is that our leadership at Mixer Direct made the whole thing possible.
There are tons ways to think about leadership. You have the Albert Schweitzer school of thought that says leadership is done by leading out front and by example. You have the Nelson Mandela school of thought that says it is better to lead from behind and empower people. You have the Dwight D. Eisenhower school of thought that says, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Then you have the Benjamin Disraeli school of thought that says you have to follow the lead of the people you’re supposed to be leading.
There are so many ways to think about leadership that it is almost impossible to talk about because everyone thinks it means something different. You might as well ask someone, “So, what do you think about ‘things.’”
I could try to define Mixer Direct’s view of leadership and add to the cacophony of voices that make up the self-help section at Barnes and Noble. Instead, I’m going to lump us in with another guy who defined leadership. He’s got the best selling book of all time. That’s right. I’m totally pulling a Jesus-juke.
Following Jesus’s Lead
At Mixer Direct, we don’t so much define leadership as much as we try to follow the example that Jesus gave us. The first way we do that is by trying to be humble with the leadership we are given. Jesus talks about how the world views leadership as a way to push people around (Matthew 20). Instead, Jesus says that leadership should be serving those you lead. In this case, our leadership saw that our team needed something to do their jobs well and they made it happen. There could have been shortcuts or a “just make-do” attitude. Instead, our board saw the need of putting something like a crane in, and they began taking the right steps to make it happen.
Second, it shows the creativity that it takes to be a leader. Jesus got out of a lot of problems by thinking outside the box. For example, feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14). The people wanted food. Nobody had any food. So Jesus just makes it. That’s essentially how our leadership solved the tank-lifting conundrum. We needed a crane. We didn’t have a crane. So we just made it. We had a blank canvas of a factory and they could have just said, “Well, we’ve got to use what we have.” Instead, they said, “We need to make something of this space.”
No our leadership here isn’t perfect. They make mistakes. But that’s part of the reason why we haven’t put together our own curriculum on how to be a good leader. We want to see how Jesus says to do it and then follow him. After all, he is the perfect leader.