Ed Guttenplan is the managing shareholder and co-founder of Wilkin & Guttenplan P.C., a New Jersey-based firm with over 80 employees. Founded in 1983, the firm focuses in various niche areas and is continually honored as a best place to work – including being honored as a Best Places to Work for Millennials. Part of the firm’s strong foundation can be attributed to both of its co-founders being named Ed, since they’ll tell you that “Two Eds are better than one.”
However, we also know that Ed and the firm genuinely value developing their people as evidenced by the work we’ve been honored to engage with them in, via in-person training and participation in our Transformational Leadership Program (TLP). Ed is an active coach for his TLP participants and we admire his commitment to his firm and people and his overall dedication – which extends to his personal interests, too. Each time Jennifer Wilson and Ed are in the same location, whether for a conference or for collaborative work, they coordinate their morning runs so they can get their miles in together.
We’re happy to share Ed’s perspective in this month’s leadership spotlight:
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
EG: There is no one person’s leadership style I admire, rather I admire the styles and attributes of many people. Each of us has unique gifts and talents that make us special, so taking the best from each has always worked best for me. I admire attributes of so many of the people I work with in our firm and in organizations I am involved in. I look to those traits to set my own bar higher and welcome the opportunity to grow and be a better version of myself.
I admire and identify with introverted leaders who look to develop leadership in others (and not showcase themselves) - there are so many great ones. I also admire great strategists. Most importantly, I admire the special gifts of each unique person, whomever they might be - corporate executive or mail room employee - we can learn leadership skills from them all.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
EG: The most important leadership attribute is to have a vision and then develop the leadership of others within the organization to move towards that vision. It takes a village.
There must also be a willingness to develop other leaders to move a firm along and for succession. The human potential that encouragement brings out is amazing. Create the vision and get out of the way (while also being ever vigilant to guard culture). It’s not about the leader’s prominence, it’s about building a great team.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
EG: We look to those who take ownership, have a can-do attitude and perseverance to work through obstacles. They must also be effective communicators and team players. We look for our up-and-coming leaders to exhibit the three C’s: courage, coach-ability and communication.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
EG: By listening to them, creating an environment where they are safe to take risks and thinking innovatively. When we hear their ideas, we must try to act on them and take risks ourselves - it’s their firm too! Encourage and recognize people and their ideas.
To develop leaders, help them see the vision, help them create a plan and then lead from behind. The greatest benefit is when they demonstrate that they can surpass our expectations and limitations - we need them for that.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
EG: Identify people’s strengths and let them excel with those strengths. Don’t try to make people perfect or “fix them.” Build a team based upon those collective strengths. As part of this process, it is critical that all team members embrace this concept as well and appreciate each other’s differences – supporting them and not criticizing them. I love this quote by Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid.”
Our firm had an eye-opening experience with this when we had our partners and managers do a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® exercise led by Convergence. It changed our perspectives on each other and how we can work together more effectively by understanding and appreciating differences.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three characteristics best describe your leadership style?
EG: Remaining open, honest and transparent. Being attentive to our people and taking responsibility for my success and theirs. Showing empathy and understanding of where people are coming from.
Ed points out three “C’s” related to leadership potential in up-and-comers – courage, coach-ability and communication – and we love these ideas! Emerging leaders who want to differentiate themselves will find it beneficial to embody these attributes. We must be coachable to see real growth and development (which takes time and trial and error), we must demonstrate the ability to communicate well to share our vision for ourselves and the firm, and we must ultimately have the courage to take leaps of faith in reaching our goals – much like Ed did when he co-founded his firm.
What is your perspective on the three “C’s” in terms of leadership development? What do you do to give your up-and-comers opportunities for trial and error? Share with us in the comments box below!