Top 5 Leadership Lessons

This article reflects on my 27 year old career as an engineer, strategic planner, and attorney. It lists 5 traits of strong leaders that I have had the pleasure to work with.

(1) Be organized

One of the first lessons I learned was from Ronald Collins who led the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) Materials Research Lab years ago. Ron taught me to act on it, file it, or trash it. That was in 1990. I still act on every piece of paper in this manner to this day. It keeps down clutter and chaos. Taking action simply entails making the decision to delegate it to others or respond to it yourself. The key is to not linger. You have to read it and make the decision as soon as it arrives in the mail or hits your desk.

(2) Help pre-professional buds grow into professional blossoms

Carl Spinks was one of the coolest cats I ever worked under. Carl led Statewide Planning at GDOT. Carl delegated program management and projects to his team members and he gave us our space. If we needed insight or help, he would be there for us. But, he let us do our thing. He did not micromanage, sweat us, or be-little anyone. He was always cool, calm and collected. I recall only one time that he got irate with me. I did not want to go present the status of the Transportation Enhancement Activities program. I shared management duties with another young lady. We were both pointing to each other, telling Carl that we each did not want to do it. Carl said we lacked discipline and we could both use some time in the military. Seeing him upset was enough for me to straighten up.

Carl allowed us to complete management training courses. Some of us attended graduate school in civil engineering or law. Continued education was supported and appreciated.

(3) Hold “everyone” accountable

In every organization, there are heavy producers and there are slack folks. I have always been a heavy producer. I can multi-task and wrap my brain around a myriad of different ideas and data simultaneously. It would upset me when others did not do the same. I worked under the direction of Fernando Costa at the City of Atlanta that on the one hand was extremely organized and seemed to hold folks accountable in staff meetings. He had a cool system of using sticky notes.

For example, we would have a staff meeting of functional area urban planners on Friday. On sticky notes, our director would list each of our tasks that we needed to accomplish during the week. If the task was complete, the sticky note would get balled up and tossed. If the task did not get completed he would inquire further.

While I loved this system, the truth was that not everyone was held accountable for their responsibilities. If someone routinely did not get their work done, eventually their work would end up on my desk. That was annoying and over time I felt burned out. We had an assistant director that gave me the questionable advice to slow down in getting work done so that it would appear that the director would not give me so much work. Wow! What a solution?! I resigned instead.

(4) Share the limelight

I think one of the worse things a leader can do is take all of the credit for program implementation, project completion, or events. If the leader has a team to lead, then the entire team should get the credit. Published photos should not be of the leader only. The photos should show the entire group and behind the scene action. All professionals want acknowledgment and recognition. After all, they are trying to establish themselves. Many deserve it.

(5) Have the ability to envision outcomes and guide others

To lead is to guide. You cannot guide or direct anyone if you are doing it all yourself. Here is a Webster’s Dictionary definition of lead: “To go with or ahead of so as to show the way”. If you do not have a clear vision or way, then you cannot lead. If you are not willing to walk alongside or ahead of your team members, then you cannot lead them.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at


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