Learning to Be a Leader

It can take time and practice to be an effective leader. Start practicing early if you want your business to thrive.

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My oldest daughter came home from school a few weeks ago with an assignment: Write down, in one sentence, what it takes to be a good leader.

If asked that question, what would your answer be?

A 2016 article in Forbes magazine listed some qualities that make a good leader: have faith in your own beliefs, be able to make the hard choices, earn the respect of the team, know the team, know that the people are the key to success, articulate a clear vision and push people to be their best.

Becoming a good leader can take work. Consider Doyle Parsons, owner of Louisiana-based Parsons Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling.


Parsons knew he had to make a change: He discovered he didn’t have the capacity to effectively lead more than three employees.

The first thing Parsons changed was his attitude. He hung up a board in the office and assigned one person to rank his attitude every day based on what everyone else said. “The first day they gauged my attitude at a six, and one of the guys said, ‘If you’d have done this last year, you’d have been at a zero every day.’” It took him just two days to change his attitude and how he treated his team.

His business, which is profiled in this issue, has been doubling in size every year since then. Parsons believes that if a business isn’t growing or is losing employees, lack of good leadership ability is probably the reason.

Parsons did have some of the leadership qualities mentioned in Forbes even before making a change. He started his company with — no tools, no service truck and not a lot of money. He had faith in his beliefs, though, and he made hard choices early on to get started in the right direction. He knew what he wanted to accomplish with it. Now he knows his team, he’s constantly pushing them to do their best, and he knows they are the key to success.


If you are looking to become a better leader, here are some time-tested pieces of advice:

Earn their respect — Start with leading by example. Go through the same training you expect of your team. If you work with your team and understand what they do every day, they will respect you for it.

Learn from your team — You don’t have all the answers, and you don’t know everything. The minute you think you do, you’ve failed as a leader. There will be times when you learn from team members. Consider holding weekly knowledge-sharing sessions. Get conversation going on safer or more efficient ways to work jobs.

Share your lessons — On the flip side, part of a leader’s responsibility is to give back. You got where you are by doing some things right. Be sure to pass along the lessons you’ve learned so your team can avoid mistakes.


My daughter’s answer to the question was: “Someone who will listen and make things better.” That is probably the simplest way to describe what a true leader should be.

What are your thoughts on what makes a leader? I’d like to hear what you’ve learned along the way. You can email me at editor@plumbermag.com or call 800-257-7222.

Enjoy this issue! 


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