When Leadership Is Not Lost in Translation

For this month’s Profile, I had an in-person interview with the head of a burgeoning mattress maker from across the globe.

During the Winter Las Vegas Market, Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Association, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeffri Massie, president director of Massindo Group, a family-owned business based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Massie and members of his management team traveled to the show to exhibit some cool bedding creations produced under the company’s licenses with Spring Air and Therapedic.

Before our meeting, I was slightly apprehensive about a possible language barrier but took comfort in the fact that face-to-face conversations are by far the best way for two people who don’t share a native language to communicate—as opposed to struggling through phone calls and emails. As it turned out, Massie attended college in the United States, so his excellent English quickly set me at ease. On occasion, when I misunderstood his accent, just crooking a quizzical eyebrow at him and smiling was all it took to coax further explanation.

During our chat, we discussed his business philosophy, the goals he has set for his company and how the bedding industry in Southeast Asia is unique. By the way, I especially like that the largest “king” mattress sold in Indonesia is a perfect square. If only U.S. makers would get on board with that (I do remember one who tried), I’d be happy to buy new sheets and a headboard!

Trainer, who knows Massie, steered our conversation toward the Indonesian executive’s leadership qualities and the fact that Massie clearly communicates company goals to employees, then sits back and lets them do their jobs. He is that rare leader who delegates authority well—and to the right individuals, without micromanaging—thus allowing those around him to feel enabled, autonomous and empowered to do a great job.

Reading further in this month’s issue, you realize that talented leaders like Massie are rare, often because companies misunderstand the skill set of a good manager and leader. According to this month’s cover story by Phillip M. Perry on how to help newly promoted managers succeed, employers do such things as promoting the highest-performing salesperson, someone who is good with details, numbers and customers, to fill a management opening—and then find that person’s skill set does not translate well to a leadership post.  They lack the management skills and/or the personality to lead.

And, to succeed, companies need leaders—those whom others want to follow and whom “inspire others to great performance,” Perry writes.

And that is not open to interpretation.

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