Every semester as part of a kick-off for the leadership module in an online management course I ask participants two simple questions:
- Who’s your leadership role model?
- How did they affect you?
And, every semester I’m awestruck by the stories and humbled to be reminded how powerful and profound the impressions are that we leave on those we come in contact with during our journeys.
The stories are predictable but powerful in their themes: individuals—mostly parents or grandparents—striving in spite of obstacles, succeeding, failing, and never quitting. Sometimes, it’s a boss who treated someone kindly at a difficult point, or, who taught them what good management and leadership look like in both words and deeds.
Indelible Marks and Character Forming Examples:
These parents and grandparents and good bosses leave indelible marks that influence the lives of their children and charges in profound ways.
There’s the mom who worked two jobs and studied to get her degree after she put the kids to bed—all to create a better life for the family.
And the Dad who chased his dreams and failed and pivoted who never stopped encouraging his daughter to follow her dreams.
And then there are the grandparents who came to this country with next to nothing and clawed their way out of poverty to ultimately forge new lives for themselves and subsequent generations.
Or, the boss who saw something in an unpolished youth and took the time to teach and mentor and ultimately help them find their self-confidence.
Your Actions Today Create Someone’s Backstory Tomorrow:
The stories are fascinating and moving, yet for me, the real power in this exercise comes from the reminder that the central characters in our lives truly do help shape our future selves. Your actions today become the backstory for someone else in the future. (See: Today’s Interactions Become Tomorrow’s Backstories)
The examples teach commitment, drive, and perseverance in the face of hardship and overwhelming obstacles—all traits essential for survival and success in a harsh world. They also showcase the difference between right and wrong, and what it means to live and engage with empathy, humility, and authenticity regardless of circumstances.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
In case you ever wondered if you were making a difference, know that someone is paying attention. The example you set today may very well steer the lives of the people around you for decades to come. Make your example count!