The Teacher Should Always be a Student
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was my final "On The Rocks" note to my staff when I left my last agency. But honestly -- i could have written it as part of any of the roles where I have had the privilege to be a leader. Learning goes both ways. Here is what I wrote to my staff. As Always, confidential an proprietary information has been removed.
As I am sure won’t surprise you, I have been thinking about this “On the Rocks” for a long time, after all it is my last one as your leader.
My first draft was just a wee bit long (as in 6 pages). My second draft was going to be much shorter...my theme was going to be, Top Ten Things I Will Miss and Top Ten Things I Won’t, but it was a little lopsided because after “nagging you about timesheets” I was coming up a little short on the “Won’t Miss” list.
That topic did, however, give me a good chance to reflect on my job as your leader. I am not going to opine on our accomplishments together (though I think of them often and am just so, so proud) but I thought I would share some of my reflections on what the job has been like for me.
Some of you may remember my favorite t-shirt. On the front it said “Managing Director” and on the back it said, “Because Bad Ass Problem Solver is not an Official Job Title. I will admit, there were plenty of days when it felt like that was my job – solving problems, or at least trying to.
But believe me, as I reflect on my time as your MD it isn’t the problem solving that I will remember. What I will remember is the incredible and amazing opportunity I had to watch you grow and, as a result, to grow myself.
It was indeed my great privilege to be your leader. You know, I wasn’t exactly a “newbie’ when I came into this role so I had some pretty strong feelings about leadership was all about and I thought I was pretty good at it. But then you showed me that I had much more to learn. You taught me new things about being a leader that have enriched me and, I hope, helped me become a stronger leader.
So in my final “On the Rocks” as your MD, I’d like to share a few of the important things I have learned during our journey together.
You taught me:
That being a leader is not a rising in the ranks, but rather it is journey to help those around us rise in the ranks.
o Thank you for earning all the promotions that I was so delighted to be part of.
That talking about being a great place to work is not nearly as important as working together to become an even greater place to work.
o Thank you for being such good caretakers of our culture.
That leadership is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of those in your charge
o Thank you for trusting me to care.
That good leaders don’t worry about who is right, they care about what is right.
o Thank you for keeping me honest about my values.
That saying “I don’t know” is not only okay, it also increases the likelihood that someone else will step up who does.
o Thank you for having so many of those answers...and for sharing them with me.
That saying “yes” to your ideas was almost always the best answer.
o Thank you for being so damn smart. And your creativity and innovative way of thinking blew my mind on an on-going basis.
That I didn’t need to spend my time proving that you should have confidence in me, I just had to help you see why you should have confidence in yourselves.
o Thank you for earning that confidence.
That stress can become passion when we work together for something we care about with people who care.
o Thank you for putting up with the inevitable stress of agency life and finding ways to inspire with your passion.
And finally, I have learned that leadership is an education that never stops. And the best leaders think of themselves as the students, not the teacher.
o Thank you for being my teachers over these past years.
I cannot wait to see all the amazing things you will accomplish. Thank you for inspiring me and making me want to become a better leader every single day. Now go be great!