“Grandpa, one day I want to grow up to be just like you,” I said, smiling up at my grandfather. My 5-year-old self truly meant it back then, but I had no idea just how much more true that statement would become.
Many of us have one person in our family or outside network that we look up to more than others. For me, it was my grandfather. As I grew up, I learned that he accomplished many, many things over the years of his storied and interesting life.
He grew up on the grounds of a mental hospital in Northern Saskatchewan, served in the Army as a Paymaster, and – after he and my grandmother had settled in Nelson, B.C. – he purchased an insurance agency, went on to be elected mayor, and wrote several books.
While all of these are wonderful, they didn’t matter to me as a young child.
Even when I was a five-year-old little girl, he looked me straight in the eye when we spoke, and created the space to be heard. All I remember was how I felt when I was with him. It was like there was no one else in the room.
My grandfather passed away when I was 12 years old, long before I knew that coaching and leadership were my calling. Even though he’s gone, I still speak with him in my heart to this day, especially in moments when I need guidance.
Looking back and knowing what I know now about influence, it was his presence that made others feel so connected to him. He “walked his talk”. He used values as everyday language, and his actions and behaviours were aligned with the values he spoke of.
These are traits of great leaders. They use values as daily decision-making tools, and they give their undivided attention when they are talking to their team. They are clear about what matters most, and make time for the people who do.
We all stumble sometimes, but the key is to continuously check in. Where are we giving others our full attention? In what ways can we show up more fully, more connected, and listen so deeply that those we care about feel heard?
I’ve spent many nights going through his books. I’ll open the first page and on it will be the words, “What is the Purpose of Life?” with a poem below bringing me back to heart. Many times, I’ve yearned to have a conversation with him now, for him to see and be proud of the woman I’ve grown into, and for someone to turn to when the “right” way isn’t clear. But, looking over his books, and the legacy he’s left to not only me but to everyone he touched over his life, my hunch is that he simply followed his gut, and always put family first.
Today, I’m encouraging you to try something different. In some cases, it may really take a bit of courage. Have a conversation with someone who you look up to. Explain how they’ve inspired you and the impact they’ve had on your life. Like in my case, this doesn’t mean that this person needs to be physically present.
Believing in you and your leadership.