You may be leading, but who is following?

On Thursday, Nov. 20, Layne Webb, general manager at Alcon Laboratories, asked students “You may be leading, but is anyone following?”

Webb began this month’s Weidman Center Leadership Lecture series by dispelling a common myth. People idolize historical figures, he said, that are considered individual contributors, figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton and many others. History tends to assign these historical contributors a lot more credit than they truly deserve because every meaningful thing that gets done is done through collaboration. Any great achievement ever made is usually through the efforts of lots of people.

He clarified that ideas may sprout from individuals.  Concepts, designs and more may all originate in the mind of an individual. But when it comes to making change and improving the world for others, it’s really about collaborating and working together, and those historical figures would be the first ones to admit it.

“Even Newton was quick to acknowledge the contribution of scientists before him,” explained Webb. “This notion of the lone genius is, in fact, a false notion.”

Webb’s thoughts explained that collaboration and working efficiently in a group can either yield phenomenal results or fail miserably, and often times under the same circumstances. He explained that there are three principles that must be in place for any collaborative effort to get off the ground and move forward:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Clear objectives
  • Feedback and measurement

He also added a fourth principle that can make a collaborative group successful or unsuccessful: leadership. A leader can be the catalyst for exceptional collaborative results, as long as that leader is able to channel qualities of trust, compassion, stability and hope.

“In my experience, it’s usually one person who makes the difference and sets the tone for the group,” said Webb. “And you can be that person in any given circumstance.”

Webb concluded his lecture by illustrating how people are hungry for leadership. Specifically, the type of leadership where the individual is adding trust and human elements that people relate to. People are anxious to follow a person who adds positive qualities and successful leadership into their lives.

Layne Webb currently works in the medical device industry as a general manager for Alcon Laboratories, Inc. in West Virginia. Webb received his bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering from BYU and his Master of Business Administration from The University of Utah. 

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