INSIGHTS

Nice Leaders Don’t Finish Last

Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

"Being a gentleman is good for business."

Brian LaCroix

I was recently at a retirement event that got me thinking about what being nice has to do with leadership. Nearly a hundred people had gathered at the elegant University Club in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were celebrating the career of their leader of 14 years, Brian LaCroix, CEO of Allina Health EMS. He was retiring after nearly 40 years of service, first as a volunteer fire fighter, then as an EMT, paramedic, supervisor, manager and ultimately CEO of Allina Health EMS.

 

As speaker after speaker spoke of Brian’s attributes as a leader, colleague and friend, a theme emerged that no one said directly but which was evident in their stories, and was true in my own experience working with him.

 

Brian is a genuinely nice guy. He personifies the “Minnesota nice” that sometimes comes off as a joke (it’s even the name of a store in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport) but is really a virtue that isn’t as common in our leaders as it should be.

 

In my career, first as an editor and then a consultant, I’ve had the good fortune to brush shoulders with many leaders in public safety and health care. Most highly effective leaders have certain attributes in common—vision, drive, ability to communicate and plan, strategize and so on. I’ve gotten to know some of these leaders very well, seeing their private personas as well as public. On reflection, more than a few don’t rate so well in the “nice” category—and so what, don’t “nice guys finish last?”

 

Brian LaCroix, retired President/Chief of Allina Health EMS in St. Paul, started his career as a graphic artist before he caught the “EMS bug.” Nice guy that he is, he volunteered his time to paint a montage of key moments in the history of EMS that decorates a wall in an Allina training room.

 

Organizational psychologists will tell you that “nice” translates to empathy and emotional intelligence, a key attribute of exceptional leaders. In fact, here’s a classic white paper on what research reveals about the “Big Six” attributes of successful leaders. It’s a valuable read, with real insight.

 

At his retirement celebration, I mentioned to Brian my observation. He told me that a mentor told him something early in his career that always stuck:

 

“Being a gentleman is good for business.”

 

Related Posts

More Insights

“In These Uncertain Times”

We are experiencing no ordinary crisis. Between the pandemic, recession and social upheaval, this will likely be a defining moment for several generations, with consequences for our way of life we may not be able to fully recognize for years.

Read More »

Strategy Before Tactics: 4 Crucial Benefits of a Communication Plan

You know marketing your organization matters. You know measuring the results of your marketing matters. But do you feel confident that those marketing efforts are driven by a larger strategy? That what you say and how you say it are messages that consistently convey why your organization exists and what it does?

Read More »

5 Strategies for Becoming a Thought Leader

These days, we hear the terms “thought leader” and “thought leadership” a lot. Most people like the idea of becoming one, and would like to know how to become a thought leader (or at least how to be seen as one). Why? Because credibility is the calling card needed to lead and persuade—especially in the important business of public safety.

Read More »

Selling to Public Safety

There are a lot of things you need to have in place to be successful in selling to public safety, but here are the three things we at the RedFlash Group know are constants.

Read More »