It is a great joy of mine to learn from all of the interesting leaders that I get to interview for this column. It never fails that I learn something new with each interview to help me become a more effective leader. One of my passions is helping people, teams and organizations achieve peak performance, and I am always interested in ideas and resources to help achieve that objective. This week I learned a new word (or perhaps reminded — I am getting to an age where I often forget what I have learned). That word is “conative.” Most of us are familiar with the cognitive part of the brain (intelligence) and perhaps the affective part (emotions), but rarely do we talk about the conative, which drives how we act on our thoughts and feelings. Conative can also be understood as action based on our instinct.
This vocabulary lesson came out of a discussion I had with my interviewee this week — Taylor Sledge. Sledge is the owner of Sledge & Company Financial Services and is one of Mississippi’s young leaders who are making a big impact. Sledge grew up in metro Jackson and graduated from the University of Mississippi. Since beginning his financial career, he has achieved a notable list of firsts including being Rookie of the Year, New Associate of the Year and Production Leader for Mississippi three years running with New York Life. Sledge and his team have grown explosively with a laser focus on understanding the customer base they are serving and how to deliver excellence consistently. Today, in a few short years they are serving hundreds of clients in over 20 states.
One of the things that struck me about Sledge (and something I have seen consistently in the successful leaders I have interviewed) is a passion for learning and professional development. As he was growing his business, Sledge realized that he needed to build a team that worked well together and that leveraged everyone’s strengths. One of the tools that Sledge uses to accomplish that goal is the Kolbe A Index. The Index measures “your instinctive way of doing things and the result is called your M.O. (method of operation).” It measures the conative faculty of the mind and allows individuals to have a better understanding of their natural talents and their instinctive method of operation which leads to greater productivity. Sledge explained, “By using the Kolbe A Index, we are able to play to the strengths of each of the team members and function better overall as an organization.”
Sledge’s leadership philosophy is simple: He makes sure everyone knows their importance and trusts them with their tasks. He noted, “No one at our company has required hours. They have required tasks, required projects and reasonable deadlines. We trust each other with these, and that shows respect. Our team can enjoy all of the flexibility they want if they respect the career they have.” One of the other things I noted about Sledge is that he is highly intentional. He maintains a written plan for the vision and direction of his company and is a committed goal setter with an execution mindset.
Because of his faith perspective, Sledge is also involved in a leadership role with a number of organizations including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mission First Inner City Ministry and the Phoenix Club, which is a group that actively raises money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. Sledge is one of Mississippi’s young leaders to keep an eye on as he continues to make an impact through his business and his civic/non-profit leadership.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.