The older I get and the more I study great leaders,I am convinced that to be an effective leader you have to master yourself. Being able to control what goes on between your ears can be a lifetime battle. Greek philosopher Plato once said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” In my early 20s, I was exposed to the writings of leadership guru John Maxwell. It struck me how much emphasis he put on growing yourself as a leader. One of his quotes in particular comes to mind, “You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger.” I am continually challenged by this emphasis on never becoming stagnant, but continuing to push yourself to grow as a leader. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
Arthur DuCote, who leads the banking operations in the State of Mississippi for Regions Financial Corporation, is one of those leaders who understands the importance of growing yourself as a leader. DuCote grew up in a rural community outside of New Orleans and went on to graduate from Louisiana State University where he majored in finance. Prior to assuming his current duties in 2013, he held several leadership positions with the bank including Central Alabama area president, West Coast Florida business banking executive, city president of Fort Myers, Fla., and private banking line of business head.
DuCote commented on the fact that some choose leadership while for other “leadership chooses them.” He noted, “Sometimes life puts us in circumstances where we have to lead, even if it is reluctantly.” DuCote learned early on the importance of self-mastery as a leader. “I started where all leaders start, learning the necessity of leading myself. If you can’t discipline yourself to follow your own direction, you won’t have any luck getting anyone else to follow you, certainly not over the long term.” He further explained, “You must ‘walk the walk.’ If you fake it, people will figure it out and quit following you.”
As he developed as a leader, DuCote learned the invaluable lesson that leading wasn’t about himself but those he led. He candidly shared, “If you create an environment where people are benefited by following you they will follow you. If you don’t, they won’t.” He also learned that, like a great coach, you have to tailor your leadership to the individual. Leadership is not “one size fits all.” DuCote noted, “If you can’t tailor your leadership to the follower’s needs, then you aren’t leading. You might be the boss, but you aren’t the leader.”
DuCote introduced me to a new word he uses which I really like — “teamanship.” He explained that this is a “willingness and desire to be a part of something bigger than what you can individually accomplish.” He shared, “My leadership philosophy is to focus on the team first, and the individual second.” He continued, “We all play our role to help the team achieve its goals, and in the process, we will achieve our individual goals.” He wisely emphasized that this philosophy puts a significant emphasis on who you put on the team. “One bad apple can, in fact, spoil the barrel. Pick your team carefully.”
Utilizing the power of the team allows a leader to have different perspectives and experiences in order to solve complex problems. DuCote explained, “A leader only has one perspective. The team has many. A leader finds a way to tap into the follower’s many perspectives in order to help accomplish the team’s goals.” DuCote is a great example of a leader who understands the importance of learning to grow and develop as a leader, not for your own glory, but for the benefit of the team and those you are leading.
» 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.