The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Business needs strong, unwavering leadership more than ever. Parents want to be their children’s friends rather than their spiritual and emotional leaders. People overlook critical issues within their relationships, preferring to avoid confrontation and resolution by staying away from each other or being too busy to talk. Partisan politicians are more committed to identifying who is at fault than to recognizing the problems and acting to resolve them. An equal sharing of “the burden” seems to be the rhetoric as a disproportionate helping of “cure” comes from job creators while a more than equitable share of “spoils” go to those not seeking to contribute. I fear that our leaders have taken leave – or are at least staying so far below the radar screen (and out of fire) that their effectiveness may be compromised Where have the leaders gone…and how can we bring them back?

While managers can be (and often are) appointed, promoted or anointed, leadership is expressed through an individual’s actions and revealed through his or her character. A manager assigns blame – a leader assumes it. A director deflects criticism – a leader addresses it. Far too many individuals seem to be looking for excuses as to why something happened rather than accepting the present as reality and intentionally moving towards a resolution. It seems that everyone ELSE did things wrong and nothing is anyone’s own fault. Far too many are seeking someone or something to rescue them from financial ruin rather than taking charge of their own situation and finding a long-term solution. The government tries to “bring up” those having less by “taking from” those that have more – but in so doing the motivation, desire and ability of those able to make a difference is reduced. While life-long learning is a good and desirable thing, learning from books does not provide the experience that learning from one’s past failures does.

A Manager can lead but:

• Often gains a following through false or misleading promises
• Creates a sense of “having to do work” through fear of the consequences
• Could care less what others think as long as his or her needs are met

Leaders can be identified by their ability to:

• Influence by example gaining the support of others wanting to follow
• Pull others along as they rise to the top
• Understand his or her “audience” when speaking or communicating

Our region AND our nation needs confident, competent leaders willing to take risks and to grow from their consequences. We need fair and honest leaders willing to lead by example rather than by edict – seeking to motivate rather than intimidate. Are you a part of the solution or are you a major part of the problem? Do you lead by example or by manage through edict? Do you anticipate “what might happen” and prepare for it or react to “what has happened” by blaming others and accepting the consequences? Do your actions inspire others or encourage them to conspire against you? A society that expects others to “do as I say rather than as I do” is one that may “get by” but will rarely thrive.

Where have the leaders gone? Look in the mirror – we all lead someone or something, be it a business, a family or simply our own existence. Don’t let your mirror be clouded with the promise of something for nothing. Step out of the shadows and let your intentional actions reflect positively upon someone else as you fulfill your own destiny. When individuals are given the tools with which to work (education/knowledge/mentoring) and the environment in which to operate (honest, open, accepting and forgiving) with leadership that encourages growth, there will be no limit to our possibilities.