Bill is a great teacher. His principal says so. So do
his current and former students. So do other teachers. If you want to become a
great leader, you can learn a lot from Bill and his life.
Bill’s been a teacher forty years, since he was 22. I asked him how long it
took before he was good. He said that it took him until he was in his
mid-thirties before he thought he’d mastered his craft. If you want to be a
great leader, that’s how long it will probably take you to master your craft.
Bill loved teaching from the beginning. He says he felt like he belonged from
his first day of student teaching. I asked him why.
“I love English literature [his subject], and I really love the kids. I love
it when you can see the light go on and you know some kid is getting it.”
If you want to be a great leader, that’s how it should be for you. You should
feel like you belong in the role. You should love the work and the people you
Now, here’s an interesting fact. Bill has only been named “Teacher of the
Year” twice. That’s two out of the forty years that he’s been teaching, two out
of the twenty-five plus years that he thinks he’s been a master of his craft. I
asked if that bothered him.
“No, it doesn’t, because I don’t do it for the trophies. I do it for the kids
and I do it for me.”
If you want to become a great leader, read that sentence a few times. Great
leaders love what they do and they love the reason they do it. Trophies are
nice. Bill appreciated both his Teacher of the Year awards, but his big reward
is in his work.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Becoming a great leader takes hard work. You’re more likely to do that work
if you love the work itself and you revel in your purpose.