I hope you won’t consider me lazy with this week’s column, but what I’m bringing you today I can take no credit for. I’m always pouring through Fort Mill history for interesting tidbits to bring you, and my research this week turned up a gem too great to pass up. As we struggle daily with the idea of which candidate will be the best president (or possibly the lesser of two evils) it’s refreshing to find evidence that leadership can be broken down to some home truths that aren’t hard to grasp. In her book The Springs Story, Louise Pettus relayed a list of twelve things that Col. Elliott White Springs, WWI Flying Ace and president of Springs Industries, listed when he was asked by his longtime architect, Joe Croxton, to impart to him the things that irritated the Colonel in business. His responses from 65 years ago could not be more applicable today. This is what he reportedly answered without missing a beat:
- Don’t lie to me, I can usually detect a lie.
- If I ask a question and you do not know the answer, say “I don’t know.” Do not beat around the bush and make me think you know. No one can possibly know everything.
- Do not stand up when I enter your office. I am not a female, nor the president of the United States.
- Do not tell me something today and later tell me something else. I have a pretty good memory.
- If you call on the phone and I answer, don’t say “Who’s this?”
- When I walk in a man’s office on September 1st and his calendar is still displaying the month of August, I feel he is incompetent.
- Speak softly on the phone when talking to me. Don’t yell. I have sensitive eardrums.
- If I am in your office and the phone rings, let it ring. I know I’m not too busy, but I don’t like to stand around while someone carries on a conversation. I have instructed the switchboard to ring only twice.
- When drawing a floor plan for me, do not name any place “lobby.” The only place for a lobby is in Washington. This building has a foyer.
- You have every right to disagree with me, but don’t argue the point.
- When I ask you to do something for me and say “There is no hurry, just when you can find the time,” don’t believe me. I will probably be back within the hour.
- Be brief. Just give me the details. I have some department heads who, when you ask them the time, will tell you how to build a watch.
He ended his list by asking if twelve responses were enough. I’d say those twelve directives, sensitive eardrums notwithstanding, comprise a master class in appropriate business courtesy and practices. Perhaps a little more Colonel and a bit less of what passes for “celebrity leadership” would be a welcome change in Fort Mill, Washington, D.C., and beyond. I’m tacking this list up on my bulletin board—in my foyer, of course.