Monday, March 21, 2011

Professional Interview with Doctor Andy of Circuit Six

I had the opportunity to interview a good friend of mine and someone I rather admire who happens to be a leader in his own way: Doctor Andy Lange. Andy is the owner of a New Jersey based lighting, video, sound and networking company called Circuit Six. They sponsor a monthly event called Dorian's Parlor (amidst other things) that I happen to be a part of in the Philadelphia community. The Doctor is someone with a bit of a differing mindset from those that I usually encounter and interact with, and so I was lucky to get this chance to sit down and interview him.

I think the best format for this is to just post the QnA session we had here. I had a recording of it but the file became corrupt, so I can't use that. The answers are reproduced as best as I could while he was chattering....

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: No.

Q: Okay then. Moving on, so I heard you own a business. Is this true?
A: It is true, I have owned a business for approx. 2 years and technically this is my second business.

Q: Is owning your own company something you always wanted to do?
A: Mother says had entrepreneurial spirit. I was always trying to find a way to sell things. And to create things that have value.

Q: Would you consider yourself a leader?
A: Yes, but I don’t think of myself that way in my own head. If begged the question, one of the necessary skills for leadership and management [in a small business] is team building. You need to be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of people under you, for you, or around you, based on the people around you and for the right outcome. As such it was always one of my strengths. I can usually find the right people to do the right job and motivate them to get this done. This kind of leadership skill is paramount in a small business.

Q: Do you think that leadership is a skill that can be taught?
A: I define the term leadership very broadly, I believe that when you call someone a leader or describe leadership it encompasses many skills. Some of which can be taught, while others are more readily classified as talents on which we build a leadership skill set. For example: empathy, understanding other peoples motivation. But this doesn’t really teach easily, however you can build off of it to learn to teach people about it. (Me: I think what he was trying to say here is that there are certain skills of leading that can be taught, however there are some that are merely talent on which we build a set of leadership skills.) It means many different things in many different situations.

Q: Do you have any advice for people that want to become leaders?
A: Learn an honest self assessment. Don’t spend time… a leader does not spend time specifically building up their own areas of weakness. They build on their strengths and find others in areas in which they are less strong. Know yourself; know what you’re good at and what you’re not. My primary motto in trying to build the right teams: right people, right outcomes.

Q: You talk a lot about motivating people, was this something that was ever difficult for you?
A: No. I could always assemble followers. As a small business owner, your greatest asset is the will of your peers. People want to be a part of something that feels good and will be a success. Motivation is everything. People don’t line up and follow you because they don’t have something better to do. They do it because it fills a need. They need to have a reason to follow you.

Q: What is your opinion of the upcoming generation and the problems they will be faced with in the times to come, in terms of leadership?
A: Every generation has had alphas, betas, gammas, and deltas. It’s not a popular opinion but it holds true historically. The greatest challenges that upcoming generations will face, in the arena of leadership will involve, context. (Me: Define?) In todays schools, kids learn math, but they don’t learn problem solving and word problems. They learn scientific formulas but they do not learn the practical implication of these. They take geometry but not metal shop. They learn to diagram sentences but not how to read and write with passion. A young adult coming out of most of todays educational systems; they seem to have an outset of skills making them ready to leave. But they cannot place these skills into a worldly context. They cannot do anything with this knowledge. It is not enough to know that 2 + 2 = 4 but two apples plus two apples is four apples. The young people that manage to understand that will have a perspective that will allow them to lead the others with great challenge.

Q: Do you think that a change in the way leadership is implemented will be necessary or important?
A: I don’t think that kind of societal or cultural change happens deliberately. Historically, these changes happen because of a broader evolutionary need.

Q: Are there any last things you’d like to say?
A: Overall, there is the distinct smell of fried onions.

Doctor Andy is a reminder that, no matter who you are or what you do or who you lead, if you lead at all, you still need a sense of humor. It was a pleasure to interview him, and from him I was given a look at a rather different perspective to the way we do things and the way people think. In Andy's line of work, it is a more blatant and obvious sort of leadership that he exhibits. He is literally giving people orders and directions; he is the boss. It is about getting people to do what he needs without anything extra. As someone who has seen him work, it makes it easier to believe that being compelling can get the job done. You don't necessarily need to be the one to 'step up to the job' if people simply follow you for being you. I think it is also important that when you are placed in a leadership role you make people feel good and accomplished. Andy said it himself in one of the first few answers: people want to be a part of the greater good if they feel they can have a successful part of it.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer, thank you for your exploration on motivation with Andy Lange. His quote, "They do it because it fills a need. They need to have a reason to follow you," is something that many people forget. How does one support one's empower one's employees?

    Additionally, you delve in an area that is not explored enough in regards to education and that is context (critical thinking skills). It is my hope that what Dr. Lange is talking about is applied.