True Leadership Goes Quietly

by WOHe

There’s an old Zen saying, “The best leaders of all, the people
know not they exist. They turn to each other and say, ‘We did it
ourselves.’ “‘

Nowhere is this as true as in the kitchen and bath industry,
where myriad partnerships between designers and clients,
manufacturers, distributors, installers, sales reps,
subcontractors, customer service reps, finance people and assorted
allied professionals define and shape the final project in ways
both subtle and significant.’

Defining leadership is a tricky business. There’s no question
that the hallmarks of leadership are inextricably woven into the
fabric of a business’ inner workings, from the efficiency of its
day-to-day operations to the aesthetics of its designs, from its
reputation in the industry to its showroom displays, from its
marketing program to the overall disposition of its staff. And of
course, the staff is as much a mirror of the existing leadership as
the company is of its staff. But how do you recognize leadership in
a business with so many components?

Every business has its super stars, of course. In baseball, it’s
the slugger who knocks the ball over the fence at the bottom of the
ninth, bringing home the winning run. At the ballet, it’s the
principal dancers who steal the spotlight with their stunning
displays of artistic grace and physical dexterity. In the kitchen
and bath industry, it’s the award-winning designer who can bring
dreams to life with little more than a pencil and a healthy dose of
imagination and creative genius.

But what most people forget is that the big home run wouldn’t
matter if the quiet, steady first baseman hadn’t successfully
fielded all those routine ground balls the opposing team hit his
way earlier in the game. And that neither of these would have
mattered if the manager hadn’t created a solid lineup, negotiated
savvy trades, scheduled extra batting practices, given pep talks
when the team was slumping and decided when to pinch hit or send
the closer in.

Indeed, the biggest part of leadership often takes place behind
the scenes. It’s about planning and managing, creating and
motivating, tracking and sometimes choosing to go off track to find
a new, more successful direction. It’s about making the really
tough decisions, and making the equally important day-to-day

In our industry, it’s a given that beautiful designs will get
the top billing. Building a marketing campaign from the ground up,
updating product displays, software and equipment, managing
customer service functions or formulating effective training
programs just isn’t as exciting as designing a knock-your socks-off
kitchen even if it is every bit as important.

In fact, true leadership is rarely recognized, perhaps because
under the best leaders, things seem to flow so easily and smoothly,
it doesn’t appear that the “leader” is doing much at all. Yet take
away the linchpin to such an operation, and the whole thing falls

We at Kitchen & Bath Design News believe that the value of
strong leadership is not found in the glory of the spotlight, but
rather in the teamwork it inspires, in the innovations it pioneers
and in the empowerment and pride it brings to the industry at

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little glory to the
deserving! With our second annual Industry Leadership Awards (see
story, Page 49), we recognize the people who make it all happen not
just the big stars, but the men and women who quietly create,
inspire, teach and innovate, setting the standards for the industry
at large. Winners were named in eight categories, ranging from best
business management and retailing strategies to outstanding
community service.

Through their hard work, dedication, commitment, industry
knowledge and business skills, these leaders offer benchmarks that
the rest of us can admire, learn from and emulate.’

Although they may not always be the guy who’s hitting the ball
out of the park in the bottom of the ninth, they are, in the end,
the ones who guide their teams to success, and guide our industry
to even greater heights. For that reason, K&BDN dedicates this
issue to all of the leaders in the kitchen and bath industry, with
our gratitude and appreciation for giving us something to strive

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