Great Leaders Grow:
Becoming a Leader for Life
“For one thing, he taught me virtually everything I know about leadership,” she said. “I thought I was a good leader early on, but in fact, I was a very poor leader, and my overconfidence nearly derailed my career. Then I met Jeff. At the time, he was the president of our company. I was a struggling front-line supervisor with a team that was dead last in performance in the entire company. After your father taught me what real leadership is all about, my team went from worst to first in performance. Over the months and years that followed, he continued to mentor me. I became the head of Leadership Development and eventually became head of Operations. The positive impact your father made on my life was huge.”
“I’ve heard that from a lot of people in the last few weeks,” Blake said. “Even now, even though he’s gone, he’s still impacting my life.”
“How so?” Debbie asked.
“I’m taking notes from you on things he taught you.” Blake looked up at Debbie. “That’s pretty cool,” he added.
“So, how can I serve you?”
“I really don’t know. The last thing Dad said to me was, ‘You can be a leader.’ I don’t know what to do with that. First, I’m not sure I believe him. Second, all I’m thinking about right now is getting a job.”
“When do you graduate?”
“I graduate in three months,” Blake said.
“Have you been interviewing with companies?”
“What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m getting a clear picture of your uncertainty here,” she said. “What if we meet again to talk about your next steps in more detail?”
“That would be great.” Blake felt relieved. He hadn’t really known if his call to Debbie was the right thing to do. Now he sensed what a great ally she would be.
“Here’s what you can do to prepare,” said Debbie. “First, I want to understand more about your past.”
“More than my sixteenth birthday party?” Blake said with a smile.
“Yes.” Debbie continued, “Let’s talk about your strengths, your interests, and what you’ve done in your life thus far that has been fulfilling.”
Blake was taking notes. “Anything else?”
“Two more items: let’s talk about things you’re not good at, and, finally, what do you think you’d like to do for your first job—what would interest and excite you?”
“I’m not sure I can answer all those questions,” Blake said while looking at his list.
“Do the best you can. It will give us a place to start.”
Three weeks elapsed before Blake’s exams were over and Debbie had a free afternoon. The meeting was scheduled for the same coffee shop. Again, they both arrived early.
“Good afternoon!” Debbie said. “How are you?”
“I’m okay,” Blake said. The truth was, he was still grieving over his father’s death.
“Getting used to losing a loved one takes time,” Debbie said gently. “Did you have time to think through the things we discussed at the end of our first meeting?”
“I did. Just as I feared, I don’t know the answers to all the questions.”
“That’s okay. I rarely know all the answers to my own questions,” Debbie said with a grin. “And that really doesn’t diminish the power of the question. Often the search for the answer is just as valuable as the answer itself. Let’s see what you’ve come up with so far.”
They began to discuss Blake’s strengths and passions. Blake was very talented, so this was a fascinating conversation.
part four of ‘Great Leaders’ will appear here tomorrow