Laundry Leadership Today, Tomorrow (Conclusion)


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Deana Griffin |

Laundry recruiter examines today’s front office, plant leadership, finding future leaders

STAUNTON, Va. — Years ago, the only way leaders knew how to manage was through hierarchy, a top-down game focused on exercising power over people—more like a militaristic approach.

Not a bad idea, and it worked, but that method does not work today in order to build a strong leadership team and to retain, promote and hire/recruit individuals to a company.  

Leadership today is more complex because of the knowledge-based world; leaders cannot hope to lead alone. 

With the growing impact of technology and social media, the emphasis in leadership has shifted to leaders who are more in sync with global issues, recognize diversity as a strength and lead with empathy and compassion in order to combat the ever-evolving technology and constantly changing environment in order to stay competitive.  

Also, communication with employees is easier today, and will be in the future, due to the advances of technology. So, what does leadership in laundry/linen services look like today, and what will it look like in the future?


Another true statement is that leaders lead and managers manage. This needs to be kept in mind when a laundry looks at leadership in terms of the front office and in terms of the plant. 

In the front office, the president and CEO and upper management team need to be leaders. Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible; they create a vison and get others to follow. To do so, they set distant goals. They are unique, which means they are self-aware and build a differentiated personal brand.

Leaders are change agents, which means they embrace changes, assess and know if things are working. They make changes in order to create a better way forward, and they take risks to move the company forward. Related to this, they seek out new things to learn every day, otherwise, they feel as though they are falling behind.

Finally, leaders build relationships. They coach their teams, which means they resist the temptation to tell their people what to do and how to do it. Also, leaders create fans because this will help them increase their visibility and credibility.

While the front office is leading the laundry/linen service, plant managers and supervisors are managing the operation. Whereas leaders create fans, managers have a staff, and they work on shorter-term goals, focusing on setting, measuring and achieving those goals. They control risk and direct—they seek to avoid or control problems and assign tasks and provide direction on how to accomplish them.

To accomplish this, managers build systems. They think about what made them successful and incorporate existing and proven skills. Whereas leaders build that personal brand, managers copy the competencies and behaviors learned from others and adopt those leadership styles. They try to keep the same systems that work or refine them into better processes. 

Finally, managers are methodical, which means they pay close attention to detail, process and direction.


While a laundry may be needing a leader “now,” it’s very critical to keep in mind where the business is going in the future because without the right people in the right seat, the company’s vision can be ruined.  

Think about this, without vision, it is hard to make followers and high-potential employees into leaders. With vision and core values, your company will be driven by leaders that understand and invest in people which is your greatest asset.

When searching for the right people for leadership roles, I suggest a laundry do the following:

  1. Hire individuals not only for the position you are trying to fill at the time. Think if they can fill multiple positions from great leadership.
  2. Implement an operating system where everyone can show their talent, where you can evaluate not only performance, but also potential.
  3. Develop an in-house leadership development program.
  4. Shifting high potential leaders in different jobs/roles to provide more challenges and responsibilities.
  5. In regards to performance reviews, do this on a more frequent basis instead of annually. Make note of performance daily, weekly and quarterly.
  6. Collaborate with other employees and managers to ask their opinion/advice whether they would recommend the individual you have in mind for a leadership role.
  7. High potential leaders will coach and be mentors. Look for these qualities that stand out among others.
  8. Locate high potential leaders who will be “all in” for a company’s future.  
  9. Utilize assessment profiles to align skills and characteristics to success factors on the job.
  10. Ask yourself when evaluating high potential leaders, do they have resilience? If they fail, do they try again?
  11. Look for emotional intelligence for high potential leaders. Do they connect with others and handle situations fairly, honestly, with integrity and core values in mind? Do they have the company’s best interest in mind and interest at all times? 

All qualities mentioned with a futuristic vision concentrate on creative and innovative thinking with the mindset of aligning the right people in the right seat. 

In the next decade, I see great leaders asking the right questions with core values and vision of the company in mind, being more accessible and having an open-door policy, organizing for chaos, fostering the behaviors of growth, integrating the ability to work with people and technology, and guiding the entire interconnected system toward a positive purpose. 

Miss Part 1 on leadership qualities? Click here to read it.

About the author

Deana Griffin

The Griffin Group Inc.


Deana Griffin is president of The Griffin Group Inc.® She has 20 years of recruiting experience for the uniform and linen/textile industry. She can be reached though the website


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