Elements of Leadership from TD Smyers

When one considers the traits that make a great leader, many characteristics can inundate the mind, along with stories of unimaginable achievements and successes.

Our latest Great Ideas luncheon at IDEA Works FW featured American Red Cross North Texas Region, CEO, TD Smyers. TD has honed his own personal philosophy for leadership by combining his vast experience and knowledge from the military with the addition of a successful career in the independent sector. What Smyers refers to as “Influential Leadership” is often achieved by simply making a positive connection with those who are to be lead. The value of having a leader with a listening ear is the potential to gain a trusting relationship. “Dive in head first and learn to swim along the way,” says Smyers. “A lot of leadership skills can be learned along the way.”


Smyers’ has developed his own personal approach to effective and trusting leadership through personal accounts of leading others, whether it was in the armed forces or in front of a team of employees. His philosophy is focused on five elements: innovation, transparency, integrity, risk tolerance and embracing continuous change.

  • Innovation – Smyers recently added this one to his list of leadership elements and it was for good reason. When you are a part of a larger organization and you feel there isn’t room to innovate you have the opportunity to look at experimentation and ultimately innovation in execution of the plan. This shift in mindset can make a huge impact to a team.

  • Transparency – Smyers believes successful leaders must be transparent to set a precedent for the culture of a team. When everyone feels they are getting the full story when an emergency arises there is a much stronger chance of cohesion in facing the challenge head on.

  • Integrity – “Integrity is what you bring to the table, transparency is what you practice.” To Smyers, integrity is what you posses as a leader and your organization will always adopt the integrity to which you present. Anything in your company that is built on dishonesty is built on shifting sand, or in other words, serious problems down the road and a reputation not favorable.

  • Risk Tolerance – It is safe to say that all organizations face risk of some scale during operations and the sooner these risks are acknowledged and calculated for, the better prepared you and your team will be once faced with critical, and at times disfavored, decision making. “A culture that is risk tolerant is not fool heartedly.”

  • Embracing Change – For Smyers, continuous change provides an opportunity for an environment to not be stuck. “If the environment around you is changing faster than your company is, then you are doomed.” Much like dealing with change in your personal life, change in an organizational setting must be dealt with patience and openness. The transitional phases of change give you an opportunity to hear valuable feedback and navigate best practices to make the process less stressful on all parties.

It was clear during Smyers’ presentation that he is an advocate for innovation and collaborative cultures. In fact, his assistant was in the audience to praise this passion! Without leadership there is very little culture to provide and foster innovation. It is important to remember that a team’s innovation will always outperform that of any one individual, and building an open environment for which creativity is praised is not only an organizational morale booster, but a business one as well.

TD’s Recommended Reading: Managing the White Space by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache


Great Ideas is an event series consisting of fireside chats with thought leaders, business leaders and visionaries that explore the pathways of ideas and what makes them great. You can check out more on TD Smyers Leadership at http://www.tdsmyers.com/ and https://twitter.com/TDSleadership – Stay tuned for more information on our next Great Ideas event coming January 2016!

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