A Leadership Lesson from Roy Clark

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If you’re not a musician or country music fan, you may think of Roy Clark as the host of Hee Haw for more than twenty years or, perhaps, as a sometime guest host for Johnny Carson. He’s mostly known for his guitar and banjo playing but Clark is an amazingly accomplished musician who can play a variety of instruments in a variety of styles.

I was in the audience one night when Clark finished a bluegrass banjo piece and picked up a violin. He walked to the front of the stage and held it up.

“This is a violin,” he said. The audience shuffled a little, wondering what was next.

“I bet you thought it was a fiddle,” Clark continued. Now there was nervous laughter.

“It’s just about to become one,” he said as he tucked the fiddle under his chin and launched into his usual astounding rendition of the “Orange Blossom Special.” The crowd responded with laughter and applause.

What we call something is important. Would we eat as much beef if we called it “cow meat?” At Disney, there are guests and cast members. Those names help define what Disney expects from the people who work there.

When I first taught and wrote about supervisory skills, over twenty-five years ago, I called the people being supervised “subordinates.” Later I used “workers.” Today I use “team members.”

Each of those terms reflected my evolving understanding of the roles of the people responsible for the performance of the group and those others who made up the group. What do you call the people who work for and with you?

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