Paying their leadership forward seems to be a common thread that emerges in the stories of my book Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words. Not only do they lead people from a sense of values and humanity, or as I call it "humanness", they honor those who helped them evolve into their leadership by doing something that matters.
Joe Saltzman shows how much he honors his mentor and past High School English teacher, Ted Tajima by giving his all to his students and sharing Ted's impact as a role model with everyone around him. He states it beautifully when he says "The best lessons I’ve learned along the way are these: always put others ahead of yourself, and never do anything solely for personal gain. By helping others, by doing the best job you can on everything you do, true joy will be yours. The unhappiest people I know are the ones whose goals are trivial and unimportant, and who put what they do second to what they want to get out of it. I believe that if you care about what you do and put all your talent and time into it, the rewards will come. But to do something simply because of those rewards is to fail."
Ron Kitchen had many who dramatically impacted his life from Ewing Kauffman in an exchange he had with him at the ball field to his mother's best friend to a good friend who mentored him into business. In his words, "Most people want to be asked to mentor, whether it’s officially or unofficially. They’re willing to give you a little bit of themselves to help if they believe you’re honest and genuinely trying to use that to move forward. I’ve never had anybody who I asked for help and mentorship who turned me down, and I don’t think I’ve ever turned anybody down either."
The key factor with these leaders is they don't forget their roots nor the people who helped them emerge into their leadership. They don't take all the credit for being "self-made" they acknowledge those around them who they paid attention, listened to and learned from.
There were a few people in my life who showed me not to take no for an answer. Jim, an early mentor and teacher told me I could hugely impact the world if I just gave myself the permission. David told me "no" had no business being in my vocabulary. And Paul told me to go out and start my own firm as I was making a name for myself way back when and I had a choice to either make it for the consortium I was affiliated with or myself. I listened. The rest is history.
When I was talking at Catalyst University I challenged the people in the room to find others who can help them make their dreams a reality. Everything knows something about life and living that we don't. Ask them for their guidance and help and give the same back. Do it without any expectations of anything in return and you'll get back more than you imagined.
Clients often call and ask if I might speak to their kids who are going away to university. I always say yes and hope that they'll help someone some day who's in the same boat. Next week I'm donating my time to teach at a local high school. This is the age when dreams are formed and if I can light a small light in the hearts and minds of these students, it's worth every minute and then some.
How are you going to reach out and pay your leadership forward? Before you start telling yourself (and others) that you're no one special or have nothing to share, think again. You just have to think deeper. In the day and age where social media makes it so easy to reach out and connect, your impact can go a long way to helping many realize their goals and dreams.
Just do what matters.