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Last Update: Monday September 20, 2021

Key Idea: Be The Person Others Will Follow

Darlene grew up in the school of hard knocks.  She paid attention and learned how to win and keep customers with a great attitude and fabulous service.

Key Question:


First be a person others want to be around.  Next, give them something positive to work toward.

Q:  How did Darlene prepare herself to lead the company?

A:  We've already talked about her conservative approach to cash.  Growing up poor taught Darlene that she could live without tons of money.  This made it easy for her invest in a new truck for the business rather than a flashy personal car.

She also learned that long hours and hard work moved her from poverty to prosperity.  She recalls going with her grandmother to clean houses and somehow Darlene never became bitter about her struggle.

Dr. Keith Grint is Director of Research at the Said Business School, Templeton College, Oxford.  He has done extensive research on the topic of leadership and he's the one who taught us that there is no leadership if there are no followers.  Seems obvious but you should think hard about this.

He says that a leader:

  • Thinks about others more than they think about themselves.

  • Asks for honest critique.

  • Is an excellent negotiator.

  • Is humble.

  • Puts systems in place.

This reads like a perfect description of Darlene Jeter.

Think about it

 Do you check your ego at the door?  Do you give people a chance to tell you what they think?  Are you open to suggestions? Are there systems in place so that your employees know what to do and how to do it?

Clip from: Jet-a-way

Host-producer, Hattie Bryant, with Jesse Jeter, the son of the founders

Boston: In this episode of the show we take you inside Jet-A-Way, a recycling company for construction and demolition waste, commercial waste, and recycled paper. They are also a transportation company to pick it all up and, then when it is all sorted, to bring it to refinement centers and sanitary landfills.  You'll meet Darlene Jeter and her family. 

Darlene and her husband have been recognized by their community and by the nation for their achievements.

With over $10 million in sales and 50 employees, this business has been in  operation since 1969.  Darlene has endured enormous setbacks -- the death of the love of her life,  her husband and business partner -- and major swings in the construction business in Boston. It is a dusty, tough industry. There is a lot of heavy metal -- trucks, tractors, and front-end loaders. Darlene not only survives, she thrives with grace and dignity.

Darlene Jeter has tenacity. No moaning, blubbering, sniveling, whimpering or whining; she gets the job done and then gives back to her community.

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Jet-A-Way, Inc.

Darlene Jeter, CEO

47 Kemble Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
transportation, waste management, recycling

Year Founded: 1968

Be The Person Others Will Follow

DARLENE: My great grandmother, Rebecca Brown, she died when I was about six years old, though, but I remember that lady and I remember her well. If child abuse laws were applied in those days, Rebecca would have went to jail. If you ate in her house, you're gonna work here, sister. So that's OK.

HATTIE: You mean you had to pick up after yourself. You had to wash the dishes...

DARLENE: I did it a little bit more than that.

HATTIE: Is that what you're saying?

DARLENE: Yeah. I did a little bit more than that.

HATTIE: OK. What did she have you do?

DARLENE: Prime the pump, number one, 'cause you had to get water. You know, we didn't have water. We had a well. So you went out and you got the water in, put it in the bucket and go into the kitchen. I got on my little wooden stool and poured it in and I pumped away, get the water going. Help her wash the dishes. She taught me how to set a table. We weeded the garden, I fed chickens. And believe me, I have done all of it. We helped her clean up--get the eggs and then we washed the eggs when the chickens laid them. We had ducks. I have helped kill chickens, I wrung their necks, dipped them in the hot water in the tub, plucked those feathers out. Yeah, I've done all of that. And that was good.

Then Rebecca passed away. Mary Margaret took over. That's my grandmother, right? Same thing. Went to work with her and we lived on the outskirts of Oleary, Ohio, on a small little farm area. Only difference is I was growing up then and my grandmother would take me with her to Mrs. Day's and she did day work. And, of course, in those days again, we went to the back door. Wasn't fashionable to go in the front door. So we went in the back door. Mary Margaret, my grandma, got $1 an hour, I probably got 25 cents and I thought I was rich. I was loaded, right? But that's OK. I helped my grandma. We did day work. My mother was another worker. She received her masters in nursing at age 45.

She went back to school. My mother worked at National Tube Company in Lorraine, which is--by the way, was where Eddie was working when we came here. She worked at the shipyards during the war, Thru-Haul that makes, again, heavy-duty equipment out there. All those ladies...

HATTIE: So you had mentors who worked hard.

OK. And you were not allowed to sit around and listen to the radio or watch TV.

DARLENE: Not if I was gonna eat. And I liked that.

HATTIE: OK. So that's what you're trying to say to young people.

DARLENE: Yeah. Yeah. I had to work and I worked hard. But I loved to work, see, and it was a learning situation I think that prepared me for things later on in my life, so I'm grateful. I'm grateful...

HATTIE: Are you angry now that you had to go in the back door then?

DARLENE: Am I angry now that I had to go in the back door? Well, I tell you one thing, it teaches you what you can expect from this point on. Yeah. Yeah. But then again, you want to take a look at it, you know, what the heck made Mrs. Day's front door so doggone important, you know? Growing up in the '50s, I've seen a lot of things. I've seen some tough things, and still, I got, hopefully, beyond it, so that--one of my goals is to help young African-Americans, male or female, grow with education. We're great contributors to many of the different programs in the area. It means a lot to me, personally. I'm not bitter about anything because anger just blocks insight. And I cannot afford to block any insight. I need to always be looking forward and ahead. I use the past as a building block. The past is like a post, but not a hitching post. You can't stay back there, not if you're gonna be part of today.

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