Linda Graham has been with Anderson ZurMuehlen, a Montana firm with offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula for 33 years. As the firm expanded, so did Linda’s responsibilities! When the firm surpassed 100 employees across 5 office locations, she was appointed to the role of HR Director. Linda describes herself as “people centric” and she has always felt that the firm has constructed a leadership team with great integrity and ownership who truly believe in doing the right thing for the staff and the clients they service.

Linda has always impressed us with her knowledge of people programs and her ability to read a situation and the motivations of others. She is straight-forward, smart and she cares a TON which is the model of what you want in the area responsible for shepherding your people. We are so happy to feature Linda in this issue of our Leadership Spotlight. Her answers to our questions follow:

ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
LG: After giving this great thought and reflecting on a number of great leaders and their style, I always come back to my dad. He wasn’t an individual that commanded your attention when he walked in a room and people didn’t necessarily give him a second glance or the swivel of their head the minute he spoke. It was after he spoke and the actions that followed that placed him in leadership roles and earned him the respect he received. He was knowledgeable, he listened, he thought before he spoke, and was respectful of the individuals and the audiences that he interacted with. I always admired that.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
Honesty and integrity. When thinking about leaders in our local community as well as on a larger scale, whenever there has been a “failing” it often was due to a lack of honesty or integrity. This is not to say that this is true all of the time because sometimes leaders are dependent on others for information or support and if those people lack integrity, it will reflect poorly on the leader.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
I look for:

  • How they interact with their co-workers as well as with individuals in management and in support roles.
  • If they can listen, communicate and be respectful.
  • How they address and overcome failure.

ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
I like to start by putting an individual into a position where he or she has to lead or manage a group of individuals or a project. Sometimes we adopt a “sink or swim” approach. We encourage planning, assessing, delegating and evaluating to help develop the attributes needed. I am also an advocate of establishing mentoring relationships. Going to classes and reading books and articles on leadership or success stories on individuals in leadership positions also helps develop one’s style of leadership.

ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
Position yourself to be in a role that demonstrates your abilities. Seize opportunities to be around individuals you feel are successful leaders to understand why they have been able to achieve their level of success. If there is someone you know well and you feel is a strong leader - talk to them about their path into their role as a leader. Ask for their advice, tips, etc. And I always tell our people - don’t be afraid to make mistakes – you will make them. Simply own them, repair them when you can and move on.

ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
Honesty, integrity and I’ve been told that I act as “the voice of reason” from many individuals in all types of positions in that I can keep an even keel and see things from different viewpoints to help others approach problems more strategically. I don’t know if that’s an element of leadership, but I would like to think so!

Linda serves as a wonderful role model in the profession focusing on the most important asset of any firm – their people! Every firm needs a “people-centric” person like her who is focused on ensuring that the people are being properly mentored, managed and nurtured. Anderson ZurMuehlen is lucky to have her! Who is the person or people on your team that are committed to your firm’s people? And what can you say or do today to let them know how instrumental they are to your success?

Best Regards,

Michelle Baca