Counterpoint

On Leadership

“To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less.” —André Malraux, Man’s Hope

The beginning of a new year is an appropriate time to reflect on where you’ve been, how you got there, and where you’re going. It’s also a time for measuring performance, setting new goals, and analyzing what you’ve done well and what you need to do better. It’s a time for reviewing the performance of employees and for analyzing their strengths as well as the areas in which they need to improve. This introspective process is necessary for every dynamic organization. It seems especially appropriate as we march into the new millennium.

The past two years have witnessed significant change. For me, personally, moving from jewelry manufacturing to publishing has been interesting and rewarding. The move gave me the chance to learn about a new business, and it provided the opportunity to work with some of the well-known icons of the industry, such as George Holmes, the former editor-in-chief of JCK. It also allowed me to apply some of the marketing lessons of 20-plus years in the jewelry business to a publishing enterprise that entered 1998 with an almost totally new team.

The magazine was fortunate to have group vice president Rick Bay’s seasoned hand on the tiller and publisher Shawn Mery’s bright, aggressive, and energetic focus on developing successful new products. As a result, JCK has grown significantly, in terms of both revenue and new products and projects.

Rick decided to remain with “his” eyewear magazines when another publisher acquired them from Cahners, JCK’s parent company, several months ago. Our best wishes go with him. More than anyone else, Rick played the key role—mostly behind the scenes—in the many decisions that propelled JCK forward during the past 10 years. The JCK Show in Las Vegas, for example, never would have happened if Rick hadn’t sold the idea to the management of Chilton, JCK’s owner at the time. Sun Zu, the ancient Chinese military strategist, might have had Rick in mind when he defined the best leaders as those who were low-key, who stayed with the troops and endured their hardships, and who led by example.

Another time, another boss, Dave Wilkinson, vice president of marketing at Lenox, talked about leadership with a group of people who reported to him. He happened to be describing leadership in negative terms, referring to another corporate manager, when he said, “He’s someone I’d never follow out of a foxhole.” Dave served in the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II and knew more than a little about foxholes and leaders.

The troops at JCK were willing, without hesitation, to follow Rick Bay out of the foxholes and into commercial combat. As a result of Rick’s efforts and decisions, JCK is well positioned for continued future growth. The magazine continues to be the industry’s leading trade publication, bringing readers ground-breaking reports such as JCK’s exclusive consumer and salary surveys, directed by editor-in-chief Larry Frederick.

As we head into the new millennium, the retail jewelry industry faces many new challenges. It is the role of industry leaders to serve. It is the function of individual jewelry store owners to serve their customers and ensure their satisfaction. Technology may change. The details of consumer shopping habits may change. Consumer tastes certainly will change. Competition will change. But, over time—no matter what changes—you can be sure of one thing: Leaders will emerge who will serve the needs of their customers. It is those firms that will remain at the top.