After 36 years with the government of Alberta agriculture department, and five-and-a-half years as deputy minister of that department, John Knapp releases all of his secrets for becoming a strong leader in his first book.
“I believe I can help people in their careers, in life and work by sharing my experiences as a leader,” said Knapp.
Now retired and living in Vernon for the past year, Knapp released his book, The Leader’s Practice Guide in May. It is for entry level and mid-level leaders and managers.
“The book is about the concept of morality of leadership and the duty of care to people he or she leads, putting them before yourself with true self sacrifice,” said Knapp.
“It involves listening, caring and supporting your team – that is how the model of leadership is defined.”
While at the helm of the agricultural department, Knapp was responsible for a $1.1 billion budget and a staff of 1,200 people.
The leadership and moral scores that his staff took while he was in charge averaged 27 to 28 points higher than any other department.
Before Knapp took over, there was a revolving door of department heads.
During his first 31 years with the department, he averaged a new boss every two-and-a-half years.
From those 14 different bosses, he was able to come up with three different classifications of leaders.
“The first group are the good-to-average level leaders. I learned from them and benefitted from what they didn’t do well and tried to find a better way to do things,” said Knapp.
“The second group are the types of leaders we have all had, the poor leaders. Team members felt demoralized under them and were turned off and left the group. They often worked to rule instead of being productive. And the third group were the outstanding leaders, those who expressed the moral qualities and their team members willingly followed them.”
Knapp was too humble and wouldn’t specify which group he believes he belonged in.
He rather let his peers decide his fate, stating that it isn’t about him, but the group.
“The impact of leading the right way is profound on the health of the group,” said Knapp.
Knapp graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in agriculture in 1977. He was the gold medalist in his class of 109 students.
He started writing his book on the weekends during his final two years with the department and completed it shortly after retiring.
These days, Knapp keeps busy by teaching classes on his book at Naramata Centre and in Edmonton.
Growing up in the city of champions, Knapp idolized former Eskimo quarterback Jackie Parker, who led the green and gold to three straight Grey Cups from 1954 to 1956.
“He wasn’t the most gifted athlete, but he was a thinker and an excellent motivator and a leader,” said Knapp.
In Knapp’s opinion, leaders just aren’t born in the depths of board rooms. Parents, athletes, volunteers and businesspeople can all learn something from this book.
He has four grandchildren, with one more on the way and plans of another book also on the way.
The Practice Guide for Senior Leaders, is available in book stores and in an e-book version. There will be a book signing Sept. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Coles in the Village Green Centre.