Honest leadership

Rich Bub




Rich Bub will retire as the president and CEO of GRAEF, a Milwaukee engineering consulting firm, in 2012.

“As I near the end of my tenure as president/CEO of GRAEF, many people have asked me what I think makes for an effective corporate leader. In my mind, the essence of successful leadership boils down to one simple definition I heard many years ago: ‘A leader is an individual who can take a team where they need to go, not where they want to go.’

“When what a team needs is different than what they want, some leadership decisions can be very painful to make (such as in cases of staffing contraction or compensation reduction), but I truly believe a staff follows a leader who has demonstrated they value their staff. When leaders are willing to sacrifice along with or even ahead of the staff, the message is received loud and clear, and the staff shares in the commitment to do what is needed to overcome the challenge faced.

“In a service business such as GRAEF, we constantly talk of how important our staff is to the well-being of the firm, and with that idea in mind, I’ve always viewed myself as a coach, rather than a boss. Our staff is our biggest asset and understanding that my No. 1 job is to guide and support them has been instrumental to my success. As a ‘coach,’ I’ll try to help you get where you need to be, but I can’t do it without you.

“After 17 years in my position, that is just one of many core values I’ve tried to stay true to, passed on from my mentor, Lou Graef. In making any decision, the best long-term interests of the firm must always be kept at the forefront, anchored by those core values. I highlight ‘long-term,’ because in today’s world we have been pulled into decision-making based on short-term effects, which can be harmful to the vitality of the organization.

“The best advice I’ve ever received is if you are always honest and fair, you will always have everyone’s respect. As I move on to a new chapter and role within the GRAEF family, I leave this advice in the hands of John Kissinger, GRAEF’s new president and CEO.”

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