A Long Shadow

Leadership lessons abound … but we must be actively aware, observant, and interested in their presence to recognize them and learn from them when they appear. This article is in the memory of Bob Carlson, who influenced the world well beyond his Safeway human resources career. To me, he was first a stranger, then an acquaintance, and finally a friend. Bob stood in the light for 69 good years. Rest in peace my friend.

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been actively collecting the thoughts of people who I’ve been lucky enough to meet – even in those cases when our interaction has only been for the briefest of moments, or confined to a response on a piece of paper. In this new webinar world, opportunities to shake a hand, exchange stories and make meaningful contact with people are limited indeed.

So I was particularly struck last week, when one of the participants in “Six Core Competencies of Leadership” wrote the following (my guess is, he already thinks and acts in these ways). What he suggested he learned was, “To become a better leader by growing and thinking in different ways to create a relationship with subordinates.”

That’s a worthy goal.

What jumped off the page though were the VERBS he used in describing HOW TO GO ABOUT IT …

COMMUNICATE regularly, CREATE ways to bond, SHOW you actually care, EMPOWER employees, SHARE their personal concerns and ideas, EDUCATE, EXPLORE, SEE, and GIVE them the opportunity to perform.” (Thank you Stephen … you know who you are.)

Which brings me to my friend Bob. In him, I experienced those ideas in the flesh.

He lived in the VERBS – with the result of having a tremendous influence on people throughout his lifetime. I would call that casting a long shadow.

I hope you realize you don’t find long shadows in the middle of the day. You find them in the earliest of hours, and the latest of days. In other words, leadership and influence is built by extending yourself to others beyond regular business hours. It’s a habit, or way of life that’s always on.

Bob always had time for you. He always had another question for you. He was always interested in you and what you had to say. He always had something planned, and he was always going somewhere. He didn’t hold back, and you always knew when he was around (ask the people at Peet’s Coffee).

Too many people listen without caring. Bob did both.

So here’s to a great leader who cast a long shadow, by making the most of his life, and giving us the best of his days.

– Jerry Strom

For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit http://www.JerryStrom.com . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on leadership research by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc., and random insights as they occur to me.

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