November & December theme:
“Choose One Thing”
Posted in :  Brain Waves

The best leaders don’t set out to make us believe in them, they allow us to believe in ourselves.

In my role as art director at Fathom, and even as brother, as son, as fiance, as friend and as co-worker, I have been thinking about how people can change the course of other people’s lives through leadership. Leading by fear, reward or even by example are all tactics used throughout history by those who aspire to lead and these tactics have proved very successful. However, once in a while there comes a leader who can inspire things in a person that they never thought possible. In my mind, this is true leadership and it is rare.

While I have had many great teachers and mentors throughout my life, there were two people (besides my parents, that’s cheating) who helped me achieve things I never thought possible. One of these was my high school cross country coach who led me to a 5th seed in the New York State cross country meet. The second was my design professor from Alfred University who led me to create a ski brand and trade show display that would rival an effort put on by Rossignol.

These mentors were both very different people in very different situations but they both brought something out in me that I was unaware I possessed. I was driven, committed and passionate about what I was doing. They didn’t just offer guidance, they made me believe.

How did they do this? Well, it started with getting to know me. Getting to know my passions, my own beliefs and what made me unique. Once they truly got to know me, they could see my potential. They let me decide who I would be and how I would get there and only pushed me toward goals that I had set. Not once did they make me believe that something wasn’t possible, they simply urged me to discover ways to make it happen. They created an environment where I was truly empowered.

Looking back I see that their leadership skills came from an intuitive sense to follow my lead, sometimes literally. My running coach ran ever step of every practice with us. Often running one or two steps behind, naturally pushing us to run harder and faster. In the end, with both mentors, I was able to create outcomes that neither party had expected and I had developed a respect for these leaders that would last a lifetime.

If you are able to care about the people as much as your outcomes and put the time into supporting them, the people will follow and your outcomes will come naturally.

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Posted by: Ben Callaghan
Email the author: benc@fathom.net