Savvy leaders stay focused on their vision and values. Jeff Dirks, founding partner and president of KBL Environmental Ltd., discusses how true leaders earn respect by hard work and following The Golden Rule. Jeff’s entrepreneurial journey has taught him that working with the right mentors accelerates transformation.
Earn Respect, Don’t Demand It
Growing up on a dairy farm in Canada, there was never a shortage of work. Jeff credits that experience with laying the foundation for his leadership, entrepreneurship, and fierce negotiation skills.
Jeff’s grandparents were immigrants and seven of their eight children became entrepreneurs, including his dad. Jeff and his siblings witnessed good leadership examples from both of their parents growing up. He shares how he strives to model his own leadership on their best qualities:
His parents treat others the way they want to be treated, which earns respect. Jeff emphasizes that good leaders don’t demand respect,they earn it.
Stick With Your Vision
Jeff had always planned on becoming an entrepreneur. But after college and then nearly a decade in the corporate space, he knew that if he didn’t strike out on his own soon, he’d become too comfortable to try. He set a goal: become an entrepreneur by the time he turned 30.
So, Jeff and his brother got to work. A few years later, two days before his 30th birthday, Jeff ended his employment. He had no income, staff, or revenue, and his entrepreneurial journey officially began.
Jeff’s story serves as a reminder that prioritizing vision and values over comfort pays off.
Lean On Mentors
Over the years, Jeff has honed his leadership skills like progressive thinking, directness, and honesty. He admits that his employees find him to be overly demanding and impatient at times, but he sees these as opportunities for growth.
[20:02] “The beauty is once you understand who you are and how you tick and the positives and negatives, you can lean on them as an opportunity.”
Jeff finds value in peer groups, EOS®, and mentorship for maintaining balance in his leadership. Staying level-headed requires awareness of self, society, and your business sector.
If he could go back and share advice with his younger self, Jeff would say: Surround yourself with good mentorship early. Mentorship lends perspective that can help your company and your leadership excel.