Leadership behind a grocery cart

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In today's post our Guest blogger Allan Loria, explains, through an interesting story, his vision of leadership and the main conclusions he has reached in reference to this concept during his professional career. Don't miss it.
Leadership behind of a grocery cart

My first real job -which lasted more than two months- was in a supermarket on a part-time basis. I must confess that, at 19 years old, working in a supermarket was not an aspiration in my life at that time, in fact I don’t think a formal job was in my mind yet.

Over the months and years – in total I worked for 5 years – I grew to like the job and above all it taught me over time how it should be to exercise inspirational leadership and above all to be very human.

Today, after almost 29 years, I remember my first day as if it were yesterday.

We climbed a few rickety steps of bustling metal until we reached a second floor that boasted a polished cement floor. A dim bulb welcomed us into the gloom of what appeared to be a cellar tended by some sort of sun-forsaken dweller, who grumbled loudly at the rudeness of the people.

We took a few steps and further on we came upon a screen that served as a jailer for some boxes. She took her fistful of keys and searched with her fingers for the one that opened a padlock about to be retired. We entered, and with her hand she gave life to the light bulb that hung in the center of a high pearl ceiling.

She took off her trench coat, rolled up her sleeves and in one nimble motion put a large cardboard box on her shoulder and looked back at me with a “that’s the way to do it” look. I was transfixed to see this woman with such dexterity and determination despite her thin, dry body like a Christmas tree in January.

As I was arranging boxes and boxes full of poor toys that had not fulfilled their life purpose last season, she was explaining to me how to take inventory. Watching her working side by side with me, as one of us, showing me how to get the job done, gave me my first lesson in leadership:

A TRUE LEADER LEADS BY EXAMPLE.

At that time, she had been working in supermarkets for more than 10 years, she was under 25 years old and was the head of three departments, she had a work team of 4 people under her direct responsibility and indirectly coordinated more than 10 people.

She was always attentive to the details of the operation; she had an incredible facility to organize the team and above all she let them work.

At that time, she had only completed her high school education, she had not entered a university classroom or taken leadership courses or certifications, what she had was -and is- pure common sense, what she had was based on a very high capacity for empathy.

I remember that she always remembered her team’s birthdays and even the birthdays of her colleagues’ children. For the Christmas season, she would arrange the 24th and 31st of December in such a way that the mothers and fathers of the team could be with their children on the 24th and she would reserve the 31st for us single people.

Under her leadership I learned another basic leadership lesson:

A LEADER MUST SERVE HIS TEAM, AND NOT SERVE HIMSELF.

Countless times I saw her argue with her boss (the supermarket manager) and her peers over what she considered unfair to her departments and especially to her “little guys”. She fought tooth and nail for fair and equitable workloads for us. She saw to it that we were paid our overtime in the right fortnight and cared little about the justifications for a possible delay. She taught me another great lesson in leadership at that time:

THE LEADER MUST ALWAYS BE FAIR AND LOYAL TO HIS FOLLOWERS.

During all the years I worked with her, she always looked for ways for her team to learn to do everything, to use the new technologies that were appearing in the workplace.

She tried to lead by example, adapting herself first to change, despite her basic schooling, she was always looking for ways to train herself and how to provide us with opportunities within the organization so that we could also train ourselves. There I learned another great lesson:

THE LEADER SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK TO KEEP HIS TEAM MEMBERS TRAINED AND UP TO DATE.

After five years working at the supermarket and already advanced my university studies I got the opportunity to work in another great organization, I was very happy that this new company noticed me, but at the same time I was nervous because I had to go to tell Ella, my leader, the person who for 5 years taught me to work with her example and dedication, and to be honest without her leadership and example maybe the opportunity in that great company would not have knocked on the door of my destiny.

With a mixture of nerves and sadness, I knocked on the door of a small but coquettish office, she looked me in the eyes and immediately said: “I’ve been told“. I felt a deathly cold all over my body, I swallowed saliva and kept quiet waiting for the next sentence. I looked at her, smiled, and she finished by saying: “here you will have a friend and a family that will always support you” At that moment she gave me the last of many lessons about leadership:

A LEADER IS A LADDER FOR HIS TEAM MEMBERS TO CLIMB.

Allan Loria C.

Trainer & Coach Corporative | Age Disruptor | @allanloriac

https://www.linkedin.com/in/allanloriac/

Xavi Roca

I am Talentist, I help organizations, managers and professionals to achieve high performance through enhancing their leadership and personal brand. I am passionate about leadership, high performance team management and Personal Branding, and I have dedicated my professional career to helping companies and professionals develop and enhance their talents and strengths to achieve their maximum development and performance.

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