Anthony Tjan, co-author of Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, noted in a Harvard Business Review article that, “There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making.” I believe there is some real truth to his assertion. It is easy to deceive ourselves and think everyone thinks the same. If you have ever participated in a personality test exercise you know how truly different people can be wired. Great leaders understand themselves and also those around them. They are effective because they play to their strengths and consider the needs of others in the organization as well.
My interviewee this week, T. Doug Dale, is a very self-aware leader who, as founder of Dale Partners Architects P.A., has helped build one of the largest full service architectural firms in Mississippi. A native of Columbus, Mississippi, Dale graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from Georgia Institute of Technology where he also played varsity football for four years. Dale’s career spans over 43 years, and his firm has been around for over 34 years serving clients. In his late 40’s, he participated in a program called “The Strategic Coach” which was designed for entrepreneurs that met in small groups every 90 days over a three year time frame. He shared, “This program was most influential in confirming my leadership and management style. Each person has a one of four leadership styles – Fact Finding, Follow Through, Intuitive/Visionary, or Implementer.”
Through this process, he learned that his style is one that is intuitive, visionary, and highly original. This meant that he has a knack for finding alternatives and discovering unique ways to get things done; improvising and presenting with only bottom line notes; and communicating verbally rather than written. Dale explained, “Basically I discovered the natural strengths that God gave me, through which I act, react, and interact with the world around me…my drive. I learned that it is important for me to communicate my goals and vision to others and get their buy in. My management group needs to know clearly where we are heading.” He learned that those more Fact Finding oriented need details, those with Follow Through intensity need to put vision into context to proceed, and those with Implementer strengths must deal with tangibles. He said, “Incorporating all four leadership styles when communicating ideas, goals, and vision helps everyone relate in their own way and ensures success for all.”
In addition, Dale emphasized, “We work in a world of relationships. Capitalizing on people’s strengths leads to an environment that offers the client a well-rounded experience and efficiency in projects.” He believes that it is important to cast a vision with clarity, simplicity and directness and to be a strategic team and relationship builder. A man of faith, Dale knows the importance of prayer and treating others as he would like to be treated. He offered sage advice for young leaders, “Confirm your unique abilities, be comfortable with who you are, and apply these abilities to develop your leadership style with humility and respect for others.”
Dale’s self-awareness and focus on his unique ability has allowed him to make a significant impact for his clients, in his profession, and in the broader community.
» 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.