What is in a name?
Well, you may be surprised if you are Maltese and you hear the name Lars pronounced properly…. I know I was when I met the next person I would like to acknowledge in my recollections. You all know someone with this name too so if you frequent Malta you may want to read on to save yourself from potential embarrassment…
I had the fortune of hearing how you pronounce Lars properly from my manager Lars Lindqvist when he first joined us at Netent… I quickly told him that he did not want me using the right pronunciation (at least not in the first few days).
He then proceeded to tell me about his first time entering a Maltese bank (you must get him to tell you this when you have a chance, maybe not in a crowded Maltese restaurant though). It was at that point that I knew Lars would be a different kind of leader.
Some middle managers micromanage, some try to please, some want it their way and a rare few are genuine leaders. Lars fits squarely into the latter category. Leading from the back but always ready to jump in front of the team when needed (usually to take the bullet on our behalf).
It was 10 years ago, still relatively early in the Maltese iGaming journey and we’d managed to create a good group of people with our own practices and procedures and we were of course convinced that anyone coming in to manage us would ruin it all.
We could not have been more wrong. Lars did not come in to put us on notice, but to trust us. He made it clear that his job was to lead us not to tell us how to do our jobs but to make sure we were truly empowered to do it. He knew our targets and he knew his job was to help us achieve them, believing that we were employed with the ability to do so.
I realise that sounds obvious but ask yourself, how many times have you seen someone come into an established team and destroy everything? Yes, we have all been there.
Lars was not laissez-faire; he was content to stay out of our way as much as possible though and to offer expert guidance when required. He was careful not to be prescriptive about tasks or schedules and we thrived. I think we hit 97% tickets resolved in under 24hrs back then, but we worked! We did not need to be told to work. We helped each other and admonished each other when needed and Lars was always there to guide us when we overstepped the line, or he spotted an opportunity to help us improve.
He was also faced with a few tough challenges during his time as head of support. Things that needed to be done that no one would enjoy. Yet he always faced them openly and was ready to answer questions genuinely. I only spent a few months working with Lars as I stepped into Account Management, but those brief months had a big impact on my views of leadership.
Lars shaped a lot of the ways I work with others today. How I view my own leaders. He would be the first to admit he was not perfect, but he was by far one of the most inspirational leaders I have had the pleasure to work with. He was not a pompous ‘look-at-me’ leader but he kept in the background as much as possible and never took credit even where it was clearly due to him. He was more than capable of leading from the front when needed and ensured we had everything we needed to help us all succeed.
For that L-A-R-S (you know I will never pronounce it the right way!), I thank you. I thank you for trusting us and always treating us with respect. Day in day out, even when we wanted to make you scream. Thank you for showing me what a leader should inspire in others.
Also, Lars, if you are still in the habit of answering the phone saying “Lars here” … you really need to rethink that!