Copy of Heavy Equipment Operators

One of my most prized possessions is a toy tow truck, given to me by my team when I left the Marine Corps.  From their perspective, I was always there to get them out of a jam.  The toy is a simple reminder of the leadership trait my team valued most.  One that I continue to model over a decade later.

As leaders,  we need to wear a lot of hats – be many things to many people at different times – to be successful.  Looking beyond the tow truck, I sought out other opportunities to recognize important leadership skills in a fun and simple way.

What I found is heavy equipment operators are expected to do some of the same things with materials that leaders must do with people.  Different focus and application, yes, but relevant nonetheless.

Here is my take on how leaders must be heavy equipment operators for their teams.  And who knows, maybe this will inspire you to surprise a leader in your life with a simple recognition of his or her contribution to your team’s success.


1.  Bulldozer – Clear the road.  Whether it’s politics or other roadblocks, keep the way ahead clear for the team to do their jobs.

2.  Dump Truck – Haul out the waste that’s not needed.  Lean principles state that 95% of a process is waste, so there are plenty of opportunities for leaders make their employees more effective.

3.  Grader – Smooth things out.  If a team isn’t taking risks, their potential isn’t being realized.  Taking risks means the possibility of making mistakes.  Sometimes, those mistakes may take a little smoothing over.

4.  Boomtruck – Lift people up to places they may not be able to reach on their own.  Leaders help their teams realize their true potential by providing a compelling vision that inspires them to achieve great heights.

5.  Scraper – Go beneath the surface.  Don’t settle for “I’m fine” or “Everything is okay.”  Ask questions and get beyond surface answers to know the true state of the team or issues.

6.  Skidder – Get resources where they need to be.  Know what’s going on with the team and make sure they have the resources necessary to get the work done.

7.  Piledriver – Get to the heart of things.  Leaders cut through the extraneous and get to the core of the mission, issue or opportunity.  That’s where the gold is.



What heavy equipment do you identify with?  What other symbols of leadership resonate with you?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.