February 04, 2019

pov: Lead the Way

I have often drawn from my various experiences here in this blog because it is my perspective that the more we use our knowledge and past experiences to guide our current decision making, we become leaders who are better intentioned and further grounded in the realities of now.

When I became UNA’s Chief Executive Officer I had reached a period in my career when I knew I was ready to lead a nonprofit. I knew I had the skills, background, experience, and temperament for it. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. And when I say that I don’t mean that I needed a co-captain of sorts, but rather I knew that I needed to draw on the experiences of others to help me step into my rhythm as this organization’s CEO. In preparation, I reached out to a dear friend of mine called Marly. Marly and I met circa 1992/3 while attending Kearns St. Ann School in Salt Lake City. To this day there remains a bond that defies all the years, the many miles between us and the different lives that we lead. I reached out to Marly because she was the one person, of my age, that I knew who ran a successful organization (a retirement home in another state). She understood the scale of operations I was about to assume — she understood people and she understood me. I asked her for her best advice and this is what she said:

“Make the best decisions you can based on the information you have when you make it. Don’t look back with regret or wish you could have done something differently when you find out more information. Assume the best intentions in your team. Take care of your team because if we don’t take care of them we will fail because they won’t be taking care of us.”

I wrote Marly’s advice on my personal stationery and clipped it to my notebook where regularly I reflect on her words. I have learned over the years that we become the leaders that we see and the leaders that we know. Leadership manifests itself in so many ways and is different to every person. The one constant thing however is us, each individual person in our own lives.

Leaders are our neighbors, our parents, our children, our friends, and other family. They are our elected officials — local, state, and federal. They are our colleagues, our board members, and our donors. They are even our trusted allies and our most resented opponents. The point is, leaders come in many forms and the way we interact with them is a direct reflection on our ability, as individuals, to call upon our best selves.

Holding a position of leadership is tough. Your decisions are never respected or appreciated by all. But the one thing that keeps me leading after all these years is the fact that I know I make the best decisions I can at the time. In Utah we are in the throes of our General Assembly for our Legislature and we have just survived (as a Nation) the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Daily we are forced to see leaders of all perspectives represent us and speak for us. If ever there was a time to own your voice it would be now. Consider running for office. Consider leading your community council. Consider serving on a nonprofit board. Consider asking for and working toward a promotion. And then make it all happen!

Leaders are not made in a day; change does not happen overnight. But we can all make a decision today that will positively impact our lives and the lives of everyone around us.