All Leadership is Personal

What shaped you as a leader? Regardless of the natural talents, gifts and abilities you were born with, people, events and circumstances were involved in a silent conspiracy, all contributing to the leader you are today.

Think back throughout your life – what marked you as a leader? For me, several things come to mind…
My parents – No surprise, many leaders would say something similar.  My mom and dad loved me unconditionally and challenged me to be the best I could be.
My middle school years – An aptitude test I took in the 8th grade was a game-changer for me. I was told I wouldn’t go to college and was enrolled in vocational training as a 9th grader. Looking back, that motivated me – plus it got me out of foreign language courses in high school!
My faith – Regardless of your faith, what you believe deeply will undoubtedly affect the way you lead. Following a servant leader has been one of the most formative elements in my leadership journey. Whose leadership are you attempting to emulate?
My early supervisors – Dan Cathy was my supervisor for almost 20 years. Perhaps his biggest contribution to my leadership was the idea that your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead. He’s modeled that for me for over three decades. That single idea is the premise behind the recent book I co-authored with Ken Blanchard entitled, Great Leaders GROW. Thanks, Dan!
The opportunity to lead - Most of what you and I know about leadership, we learned by actually leading. I'm thankful I had the chance to lead early in my career. Who are the emerging leaders in your organization who need an opportunity?
Why does any of this matter? I’m no psychologist, but I believe that being fully aware of our leadership roots gives us a real advantage as we try to lead in the future.  I don’t believe that our past is something to be overcome as much as it is something to be understood and embraced. I believe all of our life experiences can serve as preparation for our future.
Our leadership future can be informed by our past – but the future is about our choices, not our past - we get to decide. My challenge and yours, is to learn from our past, but don’t live there.[GLS_Shield]
What shaped you as a leader?

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Joseph Iliff

10 years ago

Mark, as your post indicates, pretty much one's whole life can be considered preparation for leadership, at least if someone sees it that way. One can look at their past and see how it has limited them, or can look and see how it has prepared them. That is not an easy thing to do, as sometimes we may not know what our past has prepared us for. That can generate fear or excitement, depending on ones attitude. Or, our past may have prepared us for something without obvious and immediate wealth and celebrity, like being the next superstar professional athlete or hottest young professional in our field. In my experience, there is a wealth of resources in everyone's past waiting to be mined and used in their leadership journey, even if they are only leading themselves.

Bernard Smalls

10 years ago

Great article Mark -- I am going to get your book. I was shaped by my mom and dad, grandad, our JV football coach Foster, Pastors Dick Benjamin and Casey Treat, Dr. Ken Blanchard, Peter J. Daniels and many others....
BTW, I met you back in 2000 at Ken Blanchard's Faith Walk Leadership at your corporate headquarters. Had fun playing the drums that Dan had set up there...
I am still living in ATL...
All the best, Bernard


10 years ago

Bernard, thanks for your comment! I appreciate you joining the conversation. Please let me know if I can serve you in the future. Mark


9 years ago

Great to reconnect, Bernard. Please call on me if I can serve you in the future. Mark

Nathan Magnuson

10 years ago

Definitely agree with all of these. If I had to add two more, I'd add past successes and past failures. After a mistake, we think "wow, I don't want to do THAT again." After a success, we think, "hey, that really worked. I might be on to something here!"


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