Mark Lindquist, Alumni Leading Our Community
Motivational Speaker - Entertainer - Success Coach
“Do everything in your power to become the most trustworthy person in the company. That will take many forms throughout your journey; however, if you want to rise from the bottom and one day sit at the top, the shortest distance between those two points is in a vehicle called ‘trust.’”
What experience or what person at MSUM had the greatest influence in impacting your career path?
My time in the Theatre Department at MSUM has had everything to do with the trajectory of my career as an entertainer and motivational speaker. The skills I learned as a part of that program are skills I use every day as a professional performer. I’m fortunate to be able to showcase those skills I honed at MSUM in front of over 500,000 people each year.
Specifically, Annie Bergquist, who runs the Theatre office, is an inspiration to me. When you walk in her door you are immediately greeted with a friendly smile and supportive word; she has the ability to turn your day around with her positive energy and uplifting spirit. I do my best to offer the ‘Annie Bergquist feel-good experience’ with each of my audience members.
What professional experience has had the greatest influence in shaping you as a leader?
I went to MSUM on the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Air Force for six years. It was my time as a sergeant in the military that has shaped who I am as a leader. As a leader, military or otherwise, it is easy to rely on position or title to get things done; in the Air Force it was easy to “give an order” to troops and they would have to comply, simply because the person giving the order outranked them.
However, I learned that the heavy lifting and hard work as a leader comes in figuring out how to compel a person to want to do the thing on their own, to inspire the subordinate to use their own creative genius to get the job done without having to force them to do it your way by giving an order.
What are the most important characteristics of a great leader?
The most important quality a leader can have is the willingness to lead by example. I’ll charge a hill with great enthusiasm and at great personal sacrifice if I know my leader will be right there alongside me.
On the flipside, I will do the bare minimum to get by and do it without any added effort or care if I think my leader is sending me to do the dirty work he/she isn’t willing to do.
There’s a lot of talking about leaders being vulnerable and/or transparent. Do you think it’s important? How do you show vulnerability as a leader?
I believe the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency in recent years. I think the person who takes the vulnerability approach to leadership is chasing what is in vogue and I question whether vulnerability is really the image we want of our leaders. In my leadership experiences, I find there are things the general population simply doesn’t need to know. I will be extremely vulnerable with close and trusted advisors; however, it is my opinion that those who take a wide and sweeping position of vulnerability in front of everyone, all the time... I feel as though that will come back to bite you in the future.
What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Institutional knowledge, continuity and workforce development.
Gone are the days of a person working for one company for 40 years. In an increasingly mobile society, it is the dreaded “job-hopper” from Gen Y and Z that presents today’s leadership challenge. How can you maintain institutional knowledge if your employees turn over every three to five years? How can you develop long-term leadership philosophy, skills training or culture creation if you can’t keep your people on the job longer than a few years at a time? The deeper question is what is this turnover and retraining costing companies?
What’s one mistake you see leaders making frequently?
Leaders who fail to get buy-in from their people before they take off in a certain direction. Lost is the art of getting the team together in a room or in a huddle and casting the vision of where we are going, why we want to get there and how you are the key component of our success.
What do you enjoy most about being a leader in our community?
I get to say to the world: look at me. If I can do it, I’ll bet you can, too.
I want to take the excuses away from everyone. Now is the time to dream big, go for it, swing the bat and take a chance. If not now, when? If not you, who?
As a leader, what is the most important thing you do every day?
Think. Take time to think about your challenges and opportunities. Allow yourself time to work subconsciously on your problems and the human mind will astound you with its creative capabilities.
What advice would you give someone striving to advance to a leadership role within their organization?
Starting on your first day on the job, do everything in your power to become the most trustworthy person in the company. That will take many forms throughout your journey; however, if you want to rise from the bottom and one day sit at the top, the shortest distance between those two points is in a vehicle called “trust.”
Quality leadership starts with quality thoughts. Find a trusted advisor, bounce your ideas off of them and allow them to assist in the transformation of your B and C idea to an A+ idea.