It all started with Mary Jo Asmus’ excellent post, “Embracing
Mystery.” It was a great post, but originally I thought the post wasn’t a
good fit for my Midweek Look at the Independent Business Blogs, because it
didn’t seem to me about “leadership.”
Then I received an email from a person who worked for me years ago, telling
me about her success and thanking me for everything I did to help her. I
remembered her and I was thrilled for her, but I couldn’t pinpoint a single
thing I did specifically for her that might have had so much impact.
That convinced me that Mary Jo’s post was about leadership so I included it
in the Midweek selection, along with a comment much like the
paragraph above. I thought that was the end of the story, but I was wrong.
On Thursday evening my phone rang. I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize
the number, but I checked the message the caller left. The caller was Elaine
(not her real name, by her request). It turns out that Elaine reads this blog. I
called her back and we took the opportunity to catch up with each other.
She also cleared up the mystery of what I did. Here are some quotes. I’ve
checked them all with Elaine.
“You let me try things. I was just a kid when I worked for you and you just
assumed I was responsible. So I tried things and got most of it right, but every
time I didn’t you would ask me what I learned from the experience.”
“I learned a lot without knowing I was learning. I have my people review
their day before they leave and I do the same. I have a short To Do list. I plan
every day and every week and every month. No one ‘taught’ me those things. I
picked them up working with you.”
“I think the most important thing I picked up working for you was that
working hard was a good thing and that you could have fun at work. My father
hated work and complained about it all the time. You expected people to work
hard and take responsibility and help each other out. It was a whole new world
Those comments make me sound pretty good but, trust me, not everyone who
worked for me took the same lessons away from it. And most were lessons I never
set out to teach.
I ran my little shop the best way I knew how and I tried to make sure we were
always clear what the mission was and how we were doing. And I wanted everyone
who worked for me to leave with skills and experience that would make them
Beyond that, my “style” was really my values. Work hard. Do good things. Try
stuff. Take care of each other.
The mystery and alchemy of leadership is that everyone who worked for me took
what I gave and mixed it with what they had. And they all came out different,
from when they came in and from each other.
Boss’s Bottom Line
You will never know the impact you have on most of your team members, but you
will have an impact. Set a good example. Treat people right. Leave the world
better than you found it.