Great Leaders Grow:
Becoming a Leader for Life
Debbie nodded. “Although it was many years ago, it’s a part of my story that is still painful. But I’m stronger today. So, I do understand some of what you’re feeling. That’s one reason I’d love to help you if I can. I made some mistakes—in part because of my mother’s death. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of those same mistakes.”
“What kind of mistakes?” Blake asked eagerly.
“I’ll tell you about that later. Right now our first challenge is to help you find a job.”
“That would be great. What are you thinking?” Blake had his pen in hand.
“I have a few ideas for you to consider. I think the company you work for matters. Based on the world we live in, I’m not assuming you’ll be there your entire career, but a good start would be nice.”
“What would a good start look like to you?” Blake asked.
“I’m thinking about a company that shares your core values. In my experience, when a person’s core values are not aligned with a company’s values, it’s rarely a great situation—short term or long term.
“I’m also thinking about a company that has a reputation for investing in their people. These companies are harder to find today, but they’re still out there.
“Finally, I believe you want a company that could provide a long-term future—just in case you want to stay.”
“Wouldn’t that be true at any company? I mean, if I wanted to stay and make a career, wouldn’t that be an option anywhere I might work?”
“Not really. Some companies have a culture of high turnover. That’s probably not where you want to start your career.”
“You didn’t mention leadership development.” Blake added.
“You’re right. I didn’t for two reasons. First, I haven’t heard you say you want to be an organizational leader. I heard you say that your dad believed you could lead. There’s a big difference. If you don’t feel like you want to be a leader, you shouldn’t pursue a leadership position. You ought to be an individual contributor. That’s one of the lessons I referenced earlier. When I was your age, my parents wanted me to be a teacher. They were both teachers—and teaching is certainly a noble profession. But it was not me. However, after Mom died, I decided that to honor her, I should be a teacher. Unfortunately, there were some small children that suffered through my poor career choice. Thankfully, I came to my senses after just one year in the classroom.
“You’ve got to pursue your dream, not someone else’s dream for you. There are countless ways you can and will honor your dad. However, making a poor career choice is not one of them. If, in your heart, you can’t honestly say that you want to serve people, you shouldn’t pursue leadership.”
“Wait a minute. You’re going to have to go back to the idea of ‘serving people’ as a motivator for leadership.”
“That’s actually the most important thing your father taught me in the decade we worked together: ‘Great leaders SERVE.’ And it took him a long time to help me fully understand what that means and what it looks like on a daily basis, so I don’t expect it to make sense the first time you hear it. But make no mistake. If you don’t want to serve, you cannot be a great leader. Robert Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, said it well: ‘You have to be a servant first and a leader second.’”
Blake was taking notes. “You said there were two reasons you didn’t mention leadership development. What’s the second one?”
“Having a company that invests in leadership development is really good, but that alone won’t determine your success. If you can find a company that meets all your criteria ‘and’ invests in leadership development, that would be a bonus, but it is not essential for your success as a leader.”
“What is essential?”
“You’ve got to be willing to GROW.”
“Is that it?” Blake gave Debbie a look of disbelief.
“Yes, that’s it. However, there are some specific things you can do to accelerate and sustain your growth as a leader.”
“And what are those ‘specific things’?” Again, Blake’s pen was poised.
“We can explore that together in the months to come. For now, let’s focus on getting you a job.” She smiled.
They brainstormed a list of companies that might be good candidates for Blake. Debbie gave Blake a list of people she knew who might be able to help him. He left with the names of several companies and people he hadn’t previously contacted.
His action items were to make the contacts, try to get interviews, and be ready to share his progress at their next meeting.
“Thanks for the time!” Blake finally felt like he was making progress.
(This excerpt from Great Leaders Grow by Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller ends on page 16 of the hardcover.)
next week another selection in the Oakville Public Library Business Online Book Club, a free service made possible with the help of the Sprott Foundation. If you enjoyed this selection, go to your local library or Buy the Book! See you next week!