Keys to business leadership are communication and motivation, say Tampa Bay’s top CEOs

By Robert Trigaux, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, March 21, 2010

What makes a great business leader? The employees of three local companies think they know.

They heaped praise on their CEOs, so much so that they led all the companies in the Times survey of workplaces when it comes to leadership. They are able to create a culture that drives their work force to succeed. It’s part motivation, part communication, with a heavy dose of bedrock values.

“He praises his employees continuously,” the employees said.
“Is approachable, loyal and genuinely cares about his employees.”
“Uses common sense and tries to do the right thing.”
How do the leaders pull it off? The Times went to the winners, sitting down with Tom James of the regional investment firm Raymond James Financial of St. Petersburg; John Auer of the insurance firm American Strategic Insurance of St. Petersburg; and Barry Shevlin of the telecommunications/IT equipment reseller Vology Data Systems, the new name as of this month of Network Liquidators in Oldsmar.

James, 67, ranks among the area’s best-known, longest-lasting business captains. Auer, 55, wins survey kudos for staying in close touch with employees. And Shevlin, 39, tops survey feedback as an impressive motivator — a key credential running a sales-driven business.

The hour-plus exchange held in the Raymond James boardroom was serious, but at times funny…