At this year’s Executive Summit, we welcomed three members to become part of a unique industry club – those who have received the Leadership Award.

We’ve been selecting and honoring leaders from within the professional snow and ice management industry for the better part of the last decade. Every year we reach out to the industry and ask you to nominate those individuals who demonstrate the ideals of “leadership” not only within their companies and the snow and ice industry, but also within the communities they call home.

From there we convene a committee of industry insiders and past Leadership Award recipients to help narrow down the year’s list of candidates to three deserving snow and ice professionals.

And every year the inductees impress us with their stories and inspire us with their words. This year’s trio – Brilar’s Larry Yaffa, Diaz Group’s Rafael Diaz, and Invictus’ Brad Caton – did not disappoint, and they left us confident that we’d selected the correct three people.

In fact, for the first time this year I departed from the traditional “profile” story format to offer a more intimate experience with this year’s Leadership Award recipients. I chose to present their stories in a more conversational, unfiltered, Q&A-type format. I intended to bring the reader “into the room” with me as we talked about their personal and professional journeys, as well as explored their thoughts on leadership and culture, and how they viewed their roles as their operations’ top managers.

I also wanted to address a question I’m often asked: What do all of these leaders have in common?

The first thing that comes to mind is all of them, like all successful leaders, choose to lead from the front, and that’s often where you’ll find them during the worst winter doles out to the industry. No individual is too proud to pick up a shovel or get behind the controls of a skid-steer when called upon. Likewise, all expressed some variation on the concept of servant leadership.

They invert the norm by dispersing responsibility, putting the needs of employees first, and giving people the resources to develop and perform at the highest levels possible.

But there are so many other intangibles that go into leadership.

For instance, this year a recurring theme centered on attracting, retaining and managing a winning team, or more importantly, fostering a productive culture. And that’s where a lot of these concepts begin to merge. Leaders surround themselves with good, hard-working, reliable individuals. They seek those who balance out their own management deficiencies. They want individuals who can work together toward a common goal.

This idea of culture is a vital component to team building. Just because you have the right people in place does not guarantee cultural success. Imagine you’re a pro sports team GM with the resources – both material and financial – to attract the game’s most talented stars – a Dream Team. It’s meaningless unless a culture is in place that allows them to function together as a team and not as individuals.

So, what do you have in common with these leaders?