Leading by Example
Summer 2021 | By Laura J. Cole
Gerald Hector has spent a lot of time thinking — and speaking to others — about what it means to be a leader.
As the host of the podcast It’s Easy Son, he has interviewed a range of influential figures, including civil rights leader Andrew Young, eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney, former president of Spelman College Beverly Tatum, and managing director of Bank of America Private Bank Richard Nichols Jr.
“Every one of them to a T has said their career path was never a straight line,” says Hector, who joined UCF earlier this year as senior vice president for administration and finance. “Every last one of them spoke about what they had to overcome in their formative years and even as adults. What they all had in common was perseverance and stick-to-itiveness.”
What does being a leader mean to you, and how does it differ from being a manager?
Managers are simply that: They’re managing something. They’re given some outcomes that they have to get to operationally. They have to get it done.
Leaders are visionaries, right? But everyone can be a leader. It takes just a small shift in focus to understand the difference between the two. Leaders are people who can get folks to see something they don’t agree with but present a vision, a platform and a path that they can then finally see. I call it the bandwagon effect. No one wants to get into the bandwagon at the very beginning. Why? They don’t know if this thing is going to work, but if as a leader you get that bandwagon moving, as soon as it starts rolling, everyone jumps in. Why? Because everyone wants to be a part of success.
Same thing that comes through when you think about leadership in organizations. There are too many people I see who are leading, but nobody’s following them. They’re just out for a walk. Leaders always must have that presence of mind that they are to inspire but not necessarily push — and there’s a big difference.
As someone in a leadership position, how do you empower people to do their best work?
You never, ever as a leader want to have the unqualified leading the unwilling into the unnecessary for no apparent reason. I avoid that by ensuring that whoever is working alongside me, I am setting them up for success. My job is essentially to work myself out of a job.
In terms of leadership, I use the mnemonic device OATE: ownership, accountability, transparency and empowerment. The “E” is the linchpin for all the others. If my employees are not empowered, they’re not going to own their work, they’re not going to feel accountable, and they surely will not be transparent because they’re going to try to hide what they’re feeling. So that’s the environment that I try to build. It takes time because it’s predicated upon trust, right? As a leader, I have to foster that trust and get them to see that they can be much more than they think right now.
What role does mentorship play in leadership?
They’re absolutely connected. No one is an island. We are built for relationships as human beings, and the right relationships will lay the groundwork for future success. I was the recipient of mentoring from so many people that it’s only right for me to do the same. At the end of the day, life — and leadership — is all about our common humanity and how we live and exist together. We can’t succeed in anything without each other.
Learn more about Gerald Hector on UCF Today.