Leader2Leader: Mary Lewis and Tim Mitchell

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ADVICE FOR FIRST-TIME LEADERS

Mary: You have to be authentic in your leadership. It’s easy to imitate someone else’s leadership style, but if you do that, you’ll always come up short. You’re unique—you’ve been created this way for a reason. You have to find your leadership voice and lead with authenticity.

Tim: Take time and get to know your people before you start directing them around. Communicate often and leave your door open. If you run into an issue, deal with it right away. That will help you define your culture, and, as a leader, that’s one of your most important responsibilities. The better you establish your culture, the easier your job will become.

 

LEADERSHIP HABITS

Mary: I spend a lot of time reading journal articles and leadership books to stay on the cutting edge because the field of medicine changes every second. I also make use of the expertise of my peers. I believe in mentoring others, but I also have mentors who invest in my leadership and encourage me to be better.

Tim: I try to make it a habit to give back. I’m on the advisory board for Western Michigan University’s College of Engineering, and I judge senior design projects. Over the years, I’ve also helped with the Southwest Michigan Science Olympiad. Working with young people and seeing their enthusiasm gives me new energy.

 

ESSENTIAL LEADERSHIP QUALITY

Mary: You have to be willing to work when no one else wants to work. There’s a difference between hard work and what I call “the grind.” Being a leader demands doing more than what’s required. You have to be the first person in the door and the last person to leave.

Tim: At SME, our performance principles are: face facts, take ownership, work hard, and be honest. I think honesty and integrity have to come first. When things get tough, leaders can’t tolerate cutting corners, letting things slide, or covering things up.

 

THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A LEADER

Mary: Leadership comes at a cost, but having a solid support system will help you achieve your leadership goals. For instance, I have four kids at home, and I’m fortunate to have an amazing husband who has stepped up in a big way.

Tim: Leading is difficult when you don’t have good mentors. Leadership can feel isolating at times, so it’s critical to know that someone has your back.

 

THE GREATEST LEADER IN HISTORY

Mary: For me, Jesus is the epitome of a leader. He knew his purpose, and he literally transformed people’s lives.  I truly believe that leadership is all about influence. You can have power, but it’s really about having influence and the ability to inspire.

Tim: John Wooden. Along with being the [coach with the most NCAA men’s basketball championships], John Wooden was an excellent leader. His leadership style was centered on knowing your values and never compromising them. He understood that as soon as you make one exception, everything starts to fall apart—if you’re going to lead, you need to lead.

 

LEADING OUTSIDE THE OFFICE

Mary: I sit on local committees and am active in my church. I take the skills I learn in my professional life, like communication and mentorship, and apply them in the community. I think leadership is transferable. I can even take those same principles home to continue to become a better parent.

Tim: Every year, I ride with a group of friends on a bike ride from Michigan to Iowa. It’s a huge event that has been going on for 45 years. With all the training, endurance, and teamwork that’s required, it’s astonishing how applicable leadership skills can be to something like an interstate bike ride.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

Mary: First, find a mentor. Then look for a professional association that suits your goals; start going to conferences and build your network. I’ve realized that if I want to be CEO one day, then I’m going to have to connect with a CEO who can take some time and help me learn and grow.

Tim: Use your opportunities and ask for more. That doesn’t mean you have to work 60 hours a week, but always strive to do an excellent job. Also, be inquisitive—people are mostly willing and happy to share knowledge. Your managers will recognize that kind of thing.

 

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