Leadership Character Makes ALL the Difference

By Susan Hitchcock

Founder & Host Emerita of Women in Leadership Susan Hitchcock

In my entire 25 year career in corporate America working for BellSouth (now AT&T), I never heard of “leadership character.” Clearly the company provided a lot of different management development programs and for several years as part of my own career path, I was the executive director of the Management Training and Assessment Center for Georgia. All of these programs included various leadership concepts but nothing about leadership character.

During my career, I also held numerous leadership positions in Network Operations and worked with leaders at all levels, including the top officers of the company. One officer in particular was my boss, the EVP of Network – the largest department in the company, with 75,000 to 100,000 employees across 9 states. While I didn’t know about the Leadership Character Model at the time, I was very much aware that Dick Snelling (Richard K. Snelling who is now deceased) was an exceptional leader and had certain qualities that other leaders didn’t.

Some of those characteristics include honesty above all else (Integrity); being highly focused on results and the bottom line (Responsibility) and also showing that he cared about people, no matter the person’s level in the organization (Respect).

Mr. Snelling (Dick) was a professional engineer and technology visionary. Quite simply he was a world-renowned “guru” in the industry. But even with all his recognition, awards, and achievements, he remained personable and approachable; was empathetic to the needs of others; was confident but not arrogant (humility); did not look for a scapegoat when things went wrong (lack of blame); always set goals to benefit the whole company, not just his department (focus on the whole); held himself and others to their commitments (accountability); and last but not least, he always pursued what he thought was the right course of action even when others disagreed (courage.)

Looking back I feel blessed to have had this amazing role model in Dick Snelling, and of course while he wasn’t without areas for improvement, like any human being, he was a good and decent person and an inspiring leader. When I “retired early” at age 46 from my corporate position, I was extremely fortunate that Dick knew Lyn and Bob Turknett on a personal basis. That is how I was introduced to what is now the Turknett Leadership Group and thus began my second career.

Ultimately, it’s how I learned about the Leadership Character Model that Lyn and Bob created. No leadership model has ever made a greater impact on me and I’ve seen it do the same for thousands of others over my time with TLG.

All the characteristics I used to describe Dick Snelling’s leadership are characteristics of the Leadership Character Model. Therefore, it was very special for me to see him honored at one of our early Leadership Character Awards ceremonies. His award was presented posthumously to his family in 2006. My only regret is not being able to present it to him in person.

Of course there are many more leaders I know who personify the Leadership Character Model. In each and every case, it is who they are and the way they lead – with integrity and a balance of respect and responsibility – that makes ALL the difference.


SusanHitchcock@turknett.com 770-270-1723