One of the often overlooked roles of leaders is the capacity to make a difference in the lives of other people. Too often, people on the way to the top or those striving to stay on top become totally consumed by the daily demands of the leadership role. There are always budgets to balance, turf wars to win, schedules to make, and promises to keep. It is truly a rat race in which there is little time to smell the roses or make someone else’s life just a bit better.
Thanks to lessons learned from some of my bosses, I recognized early the value of taking time to use the levers of power to enrich other people’s lives. I believe it is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a tonic that can ease the burdens of leadership and give a sense of self-worth and fulfillment that leaders desperately need.
In my experience, enriching the lives of others typically costs little in either time or resources, yet it pays rich dividends. An example that stands front and center in my memory occurred during the time I served as chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Because of wintry weather conditions, my family and I were effectively trapped in Martin on our first Christmas Day in that community. With time on our hands after opening presents, a thought suddenly came to mind: Why not call the university’s 250 clerical and support staff and wish them a Merry Christmas?
I spent about five hours Christmas afternoon placing calls to surprised (and in some cases startled) staff members. It was one of the most gratifying days of my life. And the initiative had a lasting impact on the recipients of the calls. To this day, I occasionally run into UT Martin staff members who mention their memories of the call they received that Christmas Day.
The bottom line is that small gestures of kindness can have a big impact on the lives of other people. Leaders are in a unique position to make a difference in this regard. It is a difference that not only uplifts the spirits of the people the leaders serve but also provides a warm glow of satisfaction to the leader.
-adapted from Journal of a Fast Track Life © 2018 Charles E. Smith. All rights reserved. Top photo courtesy of Jill Wellington at pixabay.com