leadership

Above Par Leader

This post was written by my son and 20|20’s summer intern, Alex Bryson. Alex recently graduated high school and will attend Belmont University in the fall.  The subject, Ron Samuels, is a friend and a great leader who has been instrumental in shaping Nashville into the boomtown it is today.  

Screenshot 2015-07-05 07.20.58Ron Samuels, CEO of Avenue Bank, wrote an article on leadership called, “The Front Nine: A Walk To Remember”. In this article, he highlights nine important leadership attributes that an entrepreneur must hold in order to become a successful leader/business owner. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Mr. Samuels and interview him about this article. His article truly brings about his personality and gives a brief Avenue Bank Logoglimpse into his vast mentality of ethics, whether they are in regards to business or to humanity.

I initially started with questioning him about golf, as an icebreaker, but even with such a simple question, he formed it into a fantastic analogy that illustrates personal accountability and self-awareness. He made the point, “You are your own referee, and there is no place to hide from your own discipline. You hit some shots; you miss some shots. It builds character”. True, disciplined character sets an entrepreneur up for personal success in addition to business success, and finding more value in personal success. He also explains how having great personal ethics will make others want to follow.

In the lobby of Avenue Bank, there is a painting of a group of hummingbirds following their leader, who is clearly singled out while simultaneously being shown as a part of a collective unit. This painting represents Mr. Samuels’s attitude towards leadership. It shows how a leader is supposed to be exemplary, while humbling himself to admit that he operates as a team member.

Mr. Samuels also expanded on his third point (in his article) about being authentic and original. We agreed over the importance of standing out, and not following in the paths of others and becoming generic. He explained how a business owner needs to have a certain edge to both the way he runs his company, and how he presents his service and/or product. He told me to “look at the hummingbird (being the symbol of Avenue Bank). hummingbirdThe hummingbird has a great stamina. It is very fast. It has unbelievable agility, and is the only bird that can fly backwards”. He says that the hummingbird holds two traits that business owners need to possess: It has flexibility in what it’s trying to accomplish, and it holds an authentic characteristic that allows it to stand out from the others. The combination of these two traits will instill a lasting impression into the minds of the people surrounding the leader, whether they are in the business or are customers/clients. Authenticity and a keen edge will make people desire the business and what it stands for.

In conclusion, Ron Samuels is a fantastic role model to both entrepreneurs and young minds. His ethics show the importance of finding humanity in the business world and how personal discipline, accountability, and self-awareness leads into success through authenticity. He demonstrates how these values attracts people to the business and makes them want to use the business’s service/product. He is one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the pleasure of talking to and I hope that his words continue to motivate me, the people he works with, and anyone else who can have the pleasure of hearing his wisdom.

Leaders Drive Culture. Culture Drives People. People Drive Business.

The more our company grows, the more I realize how crucial culture is to our success.  We are in a service business.  As we grow, I personally interact with fewer and fewer of our clients on a regular basis.  So, how do I ensure that the people who do interact with our clients treat them as I would have treated them?  The answer is “culture.”

Leaders Drive Culture.  Culture is set by expectations and training, but mostly it is set by example and rewards.  Company leaders, especially the CEO, set culture.  What do they celebrate?  What do they value?  What do they punish?  How do they treat clients, vendors and employees?  What do they preach?  What are their actions (which speak louder than words)?  Finally, do they have a method for hiring people who not only fit the culture but can promote it?  Company leaders set the culture.  So, they must be able to articulate it and consciously promote it every day.

Culture Drives People.  Culture is crucial.  More than rules, training or speeches, culture provides the guardrails for accepted and desired behavior in an organization.  Businesses are small societies that develop their own mores and expectations.  These mores and expectations become understood and ingrained in the members of this micro-society (i.e., employees).  Their actions reflect the culture of their shared society.  Thus, the established culture (mores and expectations) drives their behavior.

People Drive Business.  We are a service business that happens to be in the technology space.  Our clients depend on our people to be excellent at what they do and to treat everyone with the respect and professionalism they deserve.  Without people a business cannot exist.  Without people doing the right things, a business dies.  Without culture, people don’t know how to act or make decisions, especially when the “handbook” doesn’t apply.  Simply, culture gives employees context for acting.

Sometimes we take culture for granted.  A very small business derives culture by osmosis from its founder.  A larger business must take culture seriously.  As a business grows, leaders must be intentional about developing and maintaining a culture that gives all employees the context they need to make the right decisions that promote the business and project the brand.  Otherwise, inconsistency and individual personality will rule and the business will flounder.

 Scroll to top