Governor Dan Evans’ Four Traits of Effective Leaders
Three-term Governor Dan Evans, who remains one of the most beloved former governors of Washington State, was our speaker at the Rotary Club of Seattle on October 4, 2017. He spoke about effective leadership. In the course of his comments, he identified four traits he said define leaders who are “humane, inspired and dedicated.”
Effective Leaders are Knowledgeable
The first element of effective leadership is knowledge, Dan Evan explained. “Study the issues you face, learn the facts that will guide you, and have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.”
In this time of instant electronic communications, information is plentiful but not always accurate. Successful leaders discern between information and misinformation, seek to understand their subject matter well, and actively seek out additional input.
During his comments, he described sitting in on over a hundred hours of budget presentations and hearings for each agency. As a result, he gained insight into the issues they were addressing and the associated budget implications.
When he issued his budget each year, he knew more than anyone else about its details and could answer questions in detail. Consequently, in all three of his terms, his budgets were rarely modified significantly from their original presentation.
Effective Leaders are Listeners
The second element of effective leadership is listening. “Listen carefully, especially to those you are leading.”
When he was young, the boy who would be Governor received important advice from his grandfather. “You have two ears to listen, and one mouth to talk, so you should listen twice as much as you talk,” he was told. And he did.
“I was determined to let the voices of all people be heard,” Governor Evans said. “Hearing is not enough. I have had plenty of people tell me “I hear you,”” Evans said, “but they’re really not listening. Hearing is to perceive by the ear, while listening is to pay attention.”
He made an effort to reach out to people and to listen to them. He heard what they said and made an effort to help them. Sometimes that meant connecting them with someone else in the government who could address their problem. At other times, he welcomed their suggestions, even demands, for improving government services and took action on the ideas they proposed.
Effective Leaders are Respectful
The third element of effective leadership is respect. “It is vital to respect those who are a part of your team, and important to respect even those with whom you disagree.”
One of the most critical traits of exceptional leaders is that they respect others, even when they don’t agree with them. “I would rather cross the political aisle than cross the people,” Governor Evans explained. “Too often today, politicians get that statement backward.”
Respect allows parties, and people, to work together to make progress. “I have never seen a Democratic highway or a Republican school, a liberal salmon or a conservative park. But I have seen lots of important and responsible bipartisan legislation,” he explains. Unfortunately, disrespect has become more popular than respect in the current political era.
Effective Leaders are Ethical
The final element of effective leadership is ethics. “A high standard of ethics and honesty is necessary for successful long-term leadership. Without it, leadership ultimately fails.”
Governor Evans serves on Costco’s board of directors. Their code of conduct, he says, captures the essence and importance of ethics. First, obey the law. Second, take care of our members. Third, take care of our employees. Fourth, respect our vendors. If the organization takes care of these four elements of their code, their shareholders will benefit. Governor Evans noted that they have the right framework, and it’s in the right order. (For more on the Costco Code of Ethics, see this article by Barbara Farfan.)
Are You an Effective Leader?
“Leaders without followers are lonely ghosts, and followers without a leader as a mob,” Governor Evans said in conclusion. “Success comes when leaders and followers join as a team to reach a common goal enhanced by living these leadership principles.”
Governor Evan’s comments made me consider how well our current political leaders compare to his four traits of effective leaders. Our Rotary Club President, Mark Wright, asked him his assessment of the current Washington State legislature, and Evans said he was optimistic. Younger legislators (under 40), Republicans and Democrats, meet together for a monthly hike and discussion of political issues. He often joins them, and says their bipartisan collaboration is inspiring.
It also made me reflect on my own leadership skills. I wondered how I measured up, where I am weakest, and what I could do to change those traits.
What about you? Are you an effective leader? Where can you improve your leadership style?
Governor Evans’ full speech at Rotary can be viewed here. His comments are well worth half an hour of time. You should also listen to the brief comments from KUOW’s Ross Reynolds. He described the impact of his “Ask a …” program, which increases understanding and respect by introducing people with different perspectives and backgrounds, encouraging listening, and encouraging conversations.
About the Author
Heather Fitzpatrick is a management consultant who helps nonprofits develop strategic, business, financial and marketing plans to achieve their goals. In addition, she is a Rotarian, and has been a member of Seattle Rotary #4 since 2001. Finally, she is the author of this blog, and would appreciate your support as a subscriber. You can reach her via email here.