Leadership in the Moments

By David Robertson, IPLI Mentor and Chief Academic Officer, Warsaw Community Schools

Recently something uncomfortable happened to me.  I was sitting down to dinner on a work trip with some colleagues, and I received a phone call from a friend who usually doesn’t call to chat.  I stepped out of the dinner to take the call.

What I heard from my friend was unexpected.  Basically, my friend called to make sure that he and I were okay.  He shared with me that over our past several conversations he had sensed some tension between us.  I was shocked…and I felt horrible!  Nothing could have been further from the truth!  I apologized profusely and ensured him multiple times that I was in no way upset with him.  We both felt a huge sense of relief to know that we were good with each other.  I was so appreciative of my friend.  It meant a great deal to me to know that our relationship means so much to my friend.

In the end, I learned that over the past several conversations I had been short with my friend.  Reflecting on those conversations, I realized that I had not been intentionally short, but I had been distracted.  I had other things on my mind and it came across not so much in my words but in my nonverbal communication.  I hadn’t really engaged with him.  I had hurt my friend and for that, I felt horrible.

Looking back on this situation, I was reminded that leadership happens in everyday moments like conversations.  As leaders, we shape our organizations, little by little, in these moments.  Whether we choose to be engaged, to actually care about those around us, or if we choose to let the stress and busyness distract us, we shape our organizations.

I needed the “kick in the pants” to remind myself that no task is more important than a person.  I hope I never need reminded again!