Over the years, I have written about leaders worth following. The leader that I’m writing about today we lost suddenly (and far too soon). I think the best way to honor Todd Erne is to continue his legacy of leadership.
From almost the moment that Todd joined Marco, he had followers. His approach, although unconventional at times, worked.
Todd came to Marco from Cisco to lead our new Enterprise Network Team. Under his leadership, the team raised the bar for technical expertise and service. They focused on helping organizations solve their toughest technology challenges and uncover smarter ways of operating.
A 15-year-veteran with Cisco, Todd quickly became engrained in the Marco culture of growth. He became Vice President of IT Solutions for Marco in 2017 and then President of IT Solutions last year.
Todd was clear on his priorities and never wavered from them. “Family, learning, mentoring, teaching and helping others be successful are my passions,” he wrote on his LinkedIn profile. “Life is short…don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun and make an impact!”
A Following – Everywhere He Went
Just a day after Todd died, our sales and service team gathered via video conference to share memories and ways he influenced an entire team. About 20 of his former co-workers at Cisco had a similar video call. Todd had a broad circle of influence.
Here’s what we learned from Todd and what I believe is his leadership legacy:
- Don’t apologize for your boldness.
Todd was most known for his bold presence and delivery. His stature may have even intimidated people – initially. Those who spent time with him quickly saw that his boldness came from a big heart.
- Be willing to be vulnerable and show you care for people first.
As fears of COVID-19 set in, he was among the first to step up to bring reassurance, encouragement and some light-hearted humor.
Below are a couple of excerpts from Todd’s email message to his sales and service team on March 17, three days before he died:
“The person whom I directly report to says I don’t show my sensitive side, which I actually do have FYI. In fact, my kids make fun of me if my eyes get “watery” at a movie or church. Clarification likely needed, in my defense, we go to a rock-n-roll Jesus church so there’s a lot of inspirational and uplifting personal stories.”
“…We will get through this together! We want to keep you and your families safe, so continue to take all detailed precautions. Also, know at times like these our customers are counting on us (even more) to help them keep their employees safe, their businesses functioning, their students learning, patients cared for, etc.”
The message led to many email replies thanking him. Todd will not only be remembered for being instrumental in our growth and IT leadership, but also times like this when he led with his heart.
- Keep an eye out for talent to hire.
Todd had a knack for seeing talent and potential. Several people he hired at Marco are now in leadership positions. It’s a testament to his ability to hire – and coach – well. “Worrying about being successful, to me, is wasteful,” Todd wrote on his LinkedIn profile. “Doing the right things all the time and surrounding myself with great people will lead to success for all.”
- Make mentoring a priority.
Todd valued mentoring. He was passionate about helping people be successful and investing in his team members. It’s something he never checked off the list. He was in constant pursuit of serving others. He had a way of motivating people – all around him, myself included.
- Honor where you came from.
People often smiled when Todd told them that he received his bachelor’s degree and MBA from the “Harvard of the Midwest.” The Minneapolis resident then would go on to share he graduated from St. Cloud State University. Todd was smart, quick witted and really articulate. He liked giving credit to where he came from.
I’m grateful that I got to call Todd a colleague and a friend. I credit my occasional “fun” sock choices to him. He dressed contemporary and always wore fun socks, shirts and sport jackets long before they were trendy.
I respected his love for his family – his wife, Shannon, and the enormous pride he had for his kids, Isabella and Lincoln.
Marco is a better organization because of Todd.
He will be missed by all who knew him. We will continue to lead by his example, try not to take ourselves too seriously and make an impact.
In case you are interested in making a donation to Todd’s memorial fund, visit Eagle Brook Church - Blaine.