February 28, 2013
There has yet to be a generation in American history as inspiring as the Greatest Generation; a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe men and woman who lived through the Great Depression. Those, who at young ages answered World War II’s call of duty with honor and pride. This was the generation of the sailor and nurse kissing in Times Square, the generation of Rosie the Riveter, rolling up her sleeves declaring, “Yes, we can.”
Today, America’s Greatest Generation has all but slipped away; however, their wisdom and spirit can still inspire today’s young entrepreneurs. Here are four important lessons entrepreneurs can learn from a generation that experienced its share of transformative historical events:
1. Loose Lips Sink Ships
Most people recognized this phrase that was plastered on WWII posters, reminding others to watch what they say in public. This can be sound advice for young entrepreneurs too, who are eager in their efforts and who find the Internet and social media conducive to sharing and exchanging ideas. While it is essential to spread helpful insight, but be careful where and how much you divulge; interested parties include your competition.
Keeping your mouth closed can also come in handy when building a team. The leader that is always talking is filling gaps for valuable input and ideas from their staff. Instead, cultivate a creative environment that respects when you have the floor, but also allows for cross communication and collaboration.
2. Be a Man (Woman) of Your Word
For our grandparents, giving your word meant everything. A solid handshake was as strong as a binding contract. Unfortunately the climate of today’s hyper-competitive business world has changed. However, we can still apply the same fundamental truths in our leadership.
In addition to keeping your promises to your staff, practice true leadership and maintain trust. Great leaders say what they mean and display their expectations and actions with an air of transparency.
3. Treat your Team Well
Your team’s long-term productivity will be in direct correlation to your treatment of them. As more and more Generation Y workers flood the workforce, upholding this type of ideal will be of value to the employee that has a tendency to job-hop. Care for your team with the loyalty of yesterday, and share the recognition and feedback they crave.
4. Ya’ Gotta Have Gumption, Kid
For most generations past, the true test of a leader was when the going got tough. Your team looks to you during times of strife, waiting for you to throw up your hands and panic with the rest of them. Regardless of your closeness it is so important to resist the urge and separate yourself from the masses; a calm, cool attitude will define you as a leader.
As much as your team wants to you relate to them during difficult periods, they need to see your initiative more. The leader that can roll up their sleeves and figure out ways to weather the storm commands lasting respect.
Things may not be like they were back in the day, but the solid fundamentals of what makes us and others proud are timeless lessons in both life and business. As leaders we should all strive to work like the Greatest Generation; a motive that focuses on the good of the group and the pursuit of effective leadership for all.
How does the Greatest Generation inspire your entrepreneurial efforts?
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Kelly Gregorio writes about topics that affect small businesses and entrepreneurs while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a small business loan provider.
Photo: Rosie the Riveter