In today’s world, young adults often have a skewed vision of what it means to be a leader: selfish, greedy, perhaps even egotistical. Examples on TV show much of the same, from Michael Scott on The Office to Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob Squarepants.
Corporate powerhouse and longtime Burr Ridge resident Sheri Staak recently penned, in partnership with editor Kim LaPat, Tune in to WOW Leadership: 10 Lessons Learned from America’s Favorite Shows. The book teaches valuable life and business lessons by drawing comparisons and examples from popular and classic TV shows and characters, giving the topic a fun and familiar perspective for all—from baby boomers to millennials.
“It’s practical, technical, easy to read, and can also be used as a reference book,” says Staak.
Staak incorporates more than 250 shows in her quest to reveal role models of WOW leadership and its antithesis, which she refers to as DUD leaders. Staak, who has chaired numerous project teams and led diversity initiatives focusing on the development of top talent, developed her concept of WOW leadership while mentoring young, post-college professionals. They all wanted to know what qualities made a good boss or leader. She decided to start a blog, and the genesis of the book came from one post where she compared leadership on Hawaii Five-O and NCIS.
“It’s never been on my bucket list to write a book,” Staak laughs, “but I thought, okay, I’ve got a lot of content here that resonates with people.”
There are 10 principles to WOW leadership: honest and trustworthy; humble and respectful; dedicated to self-improvement; authentic; goal-driven visionaries; effective communicators; invested in others; inspirational motivators; agents of change; and bold decision makers and problem solvers. Staak believes that people of all ages can be great leaders if they stay true to these attributes and characteristics.
“Learning leadership doesn’t have to be like reading a textbook—a veteran leader or a new leader can continue to work on it day in and day out,” she continues.
Of those principles, Staak considers communication to be the most challenging to develop. She opines that conflict is often due to miscommunication, and that many leaders lack good listening skills. The way one communicates can also be the difference between motivating employees and pushing them down. “Your communication style will determine whether people trust you and whether they’re going to follow you as a leader,” Staak adds.
Staak’s impressive resume includes leadership roles at both large privately-held and publicly-traded global companies. She has lead businesses with more than $1 billion in revenue and has worked with and managed more than 1,300 sales representatives. Her blog, The STAAK Report, is filled with personal anecdotes, career experiences, and new perspectives on business techniques and approaches.
Staak has also lead diversity initiatives focusing on the challenges of women in leadership, noting that women are underrepresented in senior leadership roles. One such challenge, she notes, is the fine line between being aggressive and assertive. She hopes that leadership can be the commonality of language, and that the focus can fall on one’s skills, knowledge, and ability to read people instead of on one’s sex or race.
“We’re human beings, we can’t be perfect every day, but leadership is work unfinished.”
Tune in to WOW Leadership: 10 Lessons Learned from America’s Favorite Shows, is now available on shelves at Barnes and Noble, airport bookstores, and Amazon. More information can be found at sheristaak.com.
– By Angelika Labno // Photography by Joel Lerner