Editor's note: Dennis McMahon is a fairly new member of the Vail Leadership Institute's Leaders Network, having recently experienced his first retreat with Frank Johnson's small group. He is a production and account manager at Hill Aevium in Edwards.
What has been your most impactful leadership experience?
Recently I had my best leadership experience when I went with a group of 13 friends to Nicaragua. It began as a vacation, but then took on a philanthropic component.
We created a website www.ilikehelping.org, and found power in numbers through the use of social media. We raised $5,000 in one month, which helped provide basic needs for more than 30 schools.
In the end it was the most memorable trip for everyone involved, and we made friends that we'll have for life.
How would you describe your leadership approach or philosophy?
I think what's most important to leadership is listening first and replying after reflecting. The other big part is being honest with everyone involved - customers, coworkers, yourself, whoever it may be.
If I had to have a linear approach to leadership, it would be to ask a question, listen to the reply, reflect on the reply, discuss it and then take action to improve the situation.
And how has that evolved over time?
My listening and reflecting skills have improved. Before, I would lead by asking, delegating and then acting. It was a very productive approach, but the end result often lacked substance.
What's the most important leadership lesson you've learned?
The answer to this really stems from the previous question, and that is to always listen and be honest.
By listening closely to what people need, you are able to come to conclusions that specifically answer their requests without making assumptions.
By being honest, you don't need to worry about backpedaling, as you are speaking from a place of fact. Your integrity is built on honesty, and I find that integrity is the foundation of leadership, being the most important to establish and difficult to repair.
What program have you been involved with at the Vail Leadership Institute and what have you taken from that experience?
I recently attended our group retreat, and it was invaluable time spent with like-minded people.
The biggest takeaway was defining my purpose and how your purpose can be practiced in all aspects of your life, from business to personal and throughout all relationships.
It gave me a renewed sense of confidence, but more importantly, it helped to organize things I probably always knew about myself but never took the time to define.
What needs to be done in your community now that you are excited about doing?
I am excited to see the new generation of leaders establishing themselves in the Vail Valley. There are fresh new ideas and forward thinking taking place that I believe was largely neglected for a long time.
I am excited for the new generation of parents who plan to call the valley home for many years to come. The valley is a an incredible place to live, and with the new blood calling the shots, I foresee opportunities arising that allow for a stronger community base and a less transient population.
I plan to be a part of that fabric that reinvigorates our community.
The Vail Valley has many ethical, effective leaders. By helping them tell their stories, the Vail Leadership Institute hopes to inspire others to engage the heart in leadership.