Don McLaughlin On Leadership

Don McLaughlin On Leadership is an excerpt from an interview with the boss who hired me for my first "real" job.  

Although that was a l-o-n-g time ago, Don has managed to stay connected (during my career and after my departure from the company.)

He was my first boss after graduating college.  Needless to day, Don made an indelible imprint on my life.  As you read Don McLaughlin On Leadership, you will understand why.


Pictured above: 

Donald R. McLaughlin, Retired Manager of Business Analysis International Paper


Don McLaughlin On Leadership

Who has had the most influence on you?

My family and my church.  My parents and my wife, along with my former pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and our whole church had a great influence on me.


How did their influence shape your leadership style?

They always promoted the mentality of others first.  This fits right in to the Servant Leadership style, which is about “we” not about “me.”  It’s about getting things done in an organization not just through me but through the entire team. 

They influenced me to be a good listener.  They encouraged me to rely on persuasion instead of positional authority, although positional authority has its place. 

They modeled the right thing, and that led to me being principle driven.  My wife is principle driven; she has been a great person to help keep me out of the ditch. This mentality plays out in every part of my life: work, home, church, community, etc. 

Sometimes what we call principles are what some call preferences.  But they are not the same.  Principles don’t change. My principles are based on the Word of God, and everyone doesn’t understand that in the workforce.  But they do understand principles.  If you know what your principles are, you will operate according to those principles.

I have found that there are some things that always work:  

  • Always treat people with respect, even if you don’t agree with them.
  • Adopt a long-run mentality, not a short run mentality.  It is not always comfortable in the short run; but always focus on what is best in the long run. 



What has been the most challenging about being a leader? 

  1. Leading others through change during an era of mergers and takeovers has been like an emotional roller coaster. 
  2. Leading people through change with this aggressive technology over the last 25 years. 

Learning and understanding technology while encouraging others to do so was challenging. I went from a manual process to a fully automated process. 


What has been the most rewarding about being a leader? 

Being around people, helping them be successful in their career and personal life. 

Doing the right thing even when it was a difficult decision at the time but it was the best for both parties.  Example:  having to let someone go.



What advice would you give (emerging and experienced) leaders today?

Emerging – Do the blocking and tackling very well.  Being successful is coming up with good ideas, but most overlook the simple things.  Have a sense of urgency, communicate, follow-up, understand the goals of the organization and share with people on a consistent basis.  If a leader does that very well, they will cover a large part of their job.

This is a work issue:  humility is a strength.  It will carry you a long way.  Pride never leads to success.  It’s not just a spiritual thing, it’s an everyday thing. 

Experienced – Stay up with the times. Stay abreast of changes:  both in the marketplace and internal to your organization.

A leader doesn’t have to know how to do everything that people who report to them know.    Second, you still have to lay out clear expectations for people and talk about them often. Those things never change.  

Don's Top Picks

I am always fascinated by the traits that leaders rank as most important.  So, as I interviewed Don to write "Don McLaughlin On Leadership,"  I just had to get his thoughts on the following: 

Don’s Top 5 Traits of a Leader

  1. Character
  2. Composure
  3. Competence
  4. Courage
  5. Care for People

 Don’s Top Picks:  Leadership Books & Tools

  • Proverbs – 1 Chapter a Day
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The 5 C’s Self Assessment by Keilty Goldsmith
  • Entré Leadership by Dave Ramsey
  • Wisdom Hunter by Boyd Bailey
  • Lifeway Resources - Thomas Rainer (Church Leadership)

Thank You!

I was flooded with fond memories while interviewing Don and writing Don McLaughlin On Leadership .  I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have Don as my first boss out of college. 

He was an excellent role model then, and he still is.  Little did I know how his leadership would shape who I am today.

Don, thank you for being a Leader Who Leads!

Want To Know More

In wrapping up "Don McLaughlin On Leadership," Don shared these parting comments. "Two things I’ve noticed: 

  1. We still have a lot of poor leaders out there. 
  2. I am still amazed that people tend to not want to be leaders - due to the awesome responsibility of having to do more with less.  Most prefer to be individual contributors."

Do You Know Don McLaughlin?

Have you had the priviledge of working with Don McLaughlin? If so, please share how his leadership has made a positive impact on you personally and professionally.

What Other Visitors Have Said

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Tommy Surles, In pulp mill operations management Not rated yet
Met Don McLaughlin shortly after beginning work for St. Regis at Cantonment in 1983. Found Don to be a person of integrity. What Don told you could be …

James E. Jones - Sr. Manager, Business Analysis Not rated yet
I met Don McLaughlin years ago working at the Pensacola Mill. I had the opportunity to work for him as a Staff Accountant. Several things that stood out …

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