Recently my supervisor passed along a great article by Steve McKee, entitled “Leaders don’t cry, and other lies.” After reading it, I couldn’t help but start thinking about all the other things that leaders do, besides show emotions. There are all kinds of articles out there about what great leaders do, or what makes a leader instead of just a manager. But the real question is, do we ever thank them for it?
Being a leader is hard work, and the amount of work that’s put in is often overlooked. It’s easy to take for granted all the great things that a leader does every day – after all, that’s what makes them a leader. But if we don’t take the time to thank those leaders for what they’re doing, and give them the same encouragement that they give us, I think we’re doing them a disservice. Why should the leaders be overlooked just because they are already great at what they do?
Maybe it’s a little cliche, but I think everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognized for what they do. And words are powerful, more so than we give them credit for. Something as simple as saying thank you can change someone’s day. Several years ago, I wrote an email along a similar line thanking someone for being a leader in our organization, and for me, at a time when we needed it most. Today, I think it’s time to thank all the leaders who have helped us become the great people and organizations that we are now.
So here it is, an open letter to all the leaders who have shaped me, and continue to shape me.
To all the leaders who helped shape me,
I know that I personally don’t thank you often enough for what you do, both for me and for our organization. It’s easy to point out all the things that are done wrong, and all the missteps taken, but it seems like we very rarely take the time to tell others how much they are doing right. There is so much that you are doing right, and because you show up and try to be better every day, you are making a difference. I want to take a minute to really thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.
You have taken disjointed teams, and taught us from each mistake that we made. Instead of seeing all the places that we fell short, you found opportunities for us to learn and improve. You didn’t shy away from the hard conversations, or the frustration, or the tears. Instead, you got right into the thick of it with us, and helped us to the other side.
You encourage me to grow and be more, instead of being satisfied with the status quo. You see the talents and the skills, even the ones that are rough or buried, and you push to develop them, even when it’s hard work. Every day, you put people like me into positions and opportunities where we can have the greatest impact. You have given many of us the chance to shine by seeing more than a title or a job description, and instead really taking the time to know us and our goals, our dreams, our motivations, and our aspirations. You take ownership when no one else will, and the ways that you touch our organizations are amazing.
You have challenged me to make my own decisions, to change my assumptions, to communicate better, and to become both a greater professional and a greater person. You believe in me and encourage me, even when I hesitate to believe in myself. No matter how many difficult conversations it takes, your door is always open. You believe in us, and encourage us, even when we hesitate to believe in ourselves. As many times as we need to hear it, you have never hesitated to say it.
Thank you for letting me ramble sometimes, so that I can work through to the answer. Thank you for letting me vent. Thank you for being amazingly patient. Thank you for all the conversations that brought me to where I am today. You have been a friend, a mentor, a leader, a teacher, and a manager all at once. The best parts of myself as a leader are the ones that I learned first from your example.
You are never too busy to give your time to others, even though I know you have a million other things that need doing. You consistently put the needs of your employees ahead of your own. You fight for us, and with us, even when things don’t go smoothly. You teach us to be gracious, and tenacious, and to believe in the larger dream we can accomplish together. You see the people behind the decisions, not just the numbers. You want the best for us, even when it doesn’t always mean the best for you.
Thank you for fielding all the requests and problems that come through your office, yet always being the positive force that we need. There are so many things that you are doing right, even though no one tells you that. You take on so much, just so that we don’t have to. You lead us so that we will be ready to lead others one day.
Thank you for letting me take ownership and make my own decisions, but always being willing to help when I need it. Thank you for guiding me away from some really bad ideas, and encouraging me toward great ones. Thank you for always giving the credit to those around you, when it would be easier to claim it for yourself.
Thank you for all the phone calls, all the emails, all the messages and meetings that I don’t see. Thank you for providing the strength and guidance that keep us going. There are so many things you do that go unrecognized, but they matter. Please know that what you are doing is changing lives. Please know that you are seen, you are recognized, and you are appreciated. I have been, and I continue to be, so fortunate to have your guidance and your example to learn from.
I don’t think it is said often enough, but you are doing great.