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Posted: September 18, 2013

Following the leader

The troops are only as good as the boss

David Sneed

I flew up to the door at 8:59 and felt lucky as llama who’d just won the lottery. Unfortunately, the sentiment was premature.  

We're closed!” sang a chorus of three pimply teens the moment I darkened the doorway. I could tell they wanted to break down the condiment line – and as soon as they dealt with the habitué ahead of me, they would.

But for now, the store was intact, my future sandwich just inches away and calling my nose in delizioso Italiano. The clock on the wall read 9:01. Dang it!  But I checked my phone again as a precaution and saw it switch to 9 p.m. I knew I made in time—but it wasn’t looking good for yours truly.

A vigorous debate followed, but their ‘store policy’ argument trumped my ‘time isn’t something you can randomly declare’ rebuttal, and I trudged back to my car hungry and vowing revenge. 

Now, I don’t know the merits of the store policy they smashed my hopes and dreams with, and I don’t know much about the kids behind the counter, but I feel I might know who their chief is. We see a manager reflected in the eyes of his people.

If, for example, you’re the kind of boss who makes fun of customers behind their back, so will your employees. Except that they aren’t as mature as you, and they show disrespect to the people who buy things from you.

You taught them that.

If you’re the boss who cuts corners, your people will, too. You taught them that as well.

And if you’re okay with taking a box of pencils, then they’re okay with a laptop from the supply closet.

So what do I think of the honcho at this particular sub shop? I think he doesn’t like his job. I think he wants to get his paycheck every week and do the minimum, cutting out posthaste at the closing bell. I think he taught the kids that.

And the owner?  He’s about to lose $20 worth of vegetables to father time. If he was around that day, I bet he’d stay open for another two minutes for an $8 sale and to use up some of those greens. But he wasn’t, and the kids don’t think like the owner.

Are they wrong for not selling me a sandwich?  No, they don’t know any better.

The manager?

He’s probably set the example for his troops that nine means nine and no one’s getting in after that. Clean up, and let’s get the kale out of here.

For good or bad, companies are a reflection of their management; the boss is watched and copied in everything she does.  Maybe we’re so busy reading the latest leadership bestseller that we forget we should probably just set a good example and help those we manage to become better workers. In so doing, the ‘being a leader’ part will come naturally.

Be a good role model all the time, and be proud of what you do: You’re a teacher as well as a boss.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

I am guessing that the boss wouldn't have hung around to make the sale either, they no doubt think their time is more valuable than that, and their employees reflect that. By Susan on 2013 09 18
Great Article! A good business would have trained the employees to WELCOME someone, even if it's at the last minute. That little spirit of compassion for someone trying to get to my store before closing would have you coming back again and again (and hopefully before closing). They not only lost your sale that day, but I am guessing that you won't be heading to that establishment anytime soon. Then these businesses wonder why sales are down. By Elizabeth on 2013 09 18
"To teach is to touch a life forever". I read that once on a refrigerator magnet. By Jared Fogle on 2013 09 18
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