What Makes a Leader: Common Sense and a Fierce Work Ethic

Seattle Sutton Foresight, What Makes A Leader? Leave a Comment

According to one entrepreneur who describes herself as “not your typical business leader,” leadership skills aren’t necessarily derived from formal education.

When I began my business in 1985 in order to help improve people’s eating habits and overall health, I knew I had to do it my way. There would be a common sense approach to helping people achieve their healthy-eating goals. As a registered nurse (RN), I knew the meals had to the healthiest out there—absolutely no gimmicks.

I have been fortunate to surround myself with great people, from the time I started until now. I think in doing so, that it has helped me succeed as a leader. What I do not know, those professionals do and help me in. This has worked out well, and I attribute it to my success in building this thriving business that has grossed $25 million.

Leaders are born, not necessarily educated in a traditional sense. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against education. Quite the contrary. In fact, my late husband and I have paid for the college educations of 22 children, five of whom were our own kids. I am very much for education and learning. I’m just not sure education equates to being a good leader.

Beyond Diplomas

A good leader is one who has common sense and uses it often, thinking through various scenarios and outcomes to make the best possible decisions. And, in the end, if a mistake or misstep is made, not dwelling on it or criticizing the person who made it, but learning from the experience. Often, in my experience, what initially seems to be a so-called failure has in the long run turned out to be a success in one way or another.

Having a positive attitude and outlook also is important in a good leader. One who can motivate people through positive encouragement, while allowing them to succeed and flourish: that is key in a good leader.

Personal Leadership Journey

I realize I am not your typical business leader, as I have had no formal business training. I am first and foremost an RN, but I started a business that didn’t exist until I took the step to solve a much needed problem.

My life began in Gackle, North Dakota, a tiny community with only 500 people at the time. It was the Great Depression, and my family was fortunate. My father was a business owner, and my mother helped him as his bookkeeper. His entire family was comprised of business owners, so maybe that’s where I get my business acumen from and my desire to lead.

It was not uncommon to work hard; it was expected. A strong work ethic was instilled in me from a young age. I recall having three jobs on Saturdays, and loved it.

Times have not changed. I still burn the midnight oil. In fact, I often say, “Nobody ever died of lack of sleep!” My children and grandchildren who work with me know this very well. So do my employees who have worked with me.

I wholeheartedly believe in Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Good leaders are also well-organized individuals. I was always “the organizer” for as long as I can remember. I gravitated toward it, and people began expecting me to be in that role.

As a leader who believes in being well rounded, I think it helps that you are not one-sided or always thinking about the business. Relationships are key, as are politics, world events, religion, community and civic arts. To know a little about something helps you as a leader and in life. ♦


Seattle Sutton, RN, BSN, is Founder of Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. She was featured in Issue No. 9 of Forefront.

Seattle Sutton

Seattle Sutton, RN, BSN, is Founder of Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating.

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