Three years ago today, I was the beneficiary of one of the most profound forms of service one could imagine. Ryan, a good friend of mine, donated his kidney to me to give me a re-birth. In fact, his wife Traci also volunteered to donate, along with 10 other friends. After endless thought about how I could show them my undying gratitude for the gift-of-a-lifetime – beyond raising awareness of the priceless value of organ donation and supporting the Kidney Foundation, Midwest Transplant Network and other causes - I arrived at the belief that what they would want me to do is give the best of myself in service to others.
Introspection was one way to identify my best strengths and traits that could benefit others although it comes with some inherent subjectivity. To add objectivity to the process, I decided to think about my strengths using the prism of how they’ve been reflected back at me by my family, friends, bosses, people I’ve hired and led, professors, coaches, and those I’ve come across in other walks of life.
The feedback I’ve received on a recurring basis is that my two most valuable professional traits is my critical thinking and my leadership/mentorship.
I have the ability to think objectively, deeply and broadly about an issue and present possibilities, instead of absolutes, which are usually limiting. That has helped business teams I’ve been part of come up with creative solutions aligned with the right strategy during my professional career. It also has added value to organizations for which I’ve volunteered or to friends who’ve asked for business, professional or personal guidance.
I thought applying that thinking to this blog could be one way to lead in service. The primary motivation for this blog is to let people know there are others out there who aren’t embedded in the absolutes or entrenched, limited points of view that are so prevalent in our polarized society. I thought it might inspire others to think beyond the conventional and discuss possibilities that haven’t been considered. And my hope is that will lead them to start new discussions using unconventional thinking to help make the world a better place one thought at a time.
The second strength that’s regularly reflected back to me is my ability to lead, mentor or coach. My philosophy about leadership and mentorship is that I should provide the context to get the individual to think about their situation or challenge themselves and give them the autonomy to come up with their own set of possibilities. It’s a non-directive, non-judgmental style of leadership that challenges people to think and do the due diligence themselves and not rely on old, staid answers that lead to mediocre outcomes. And just as importantly, not rely on me to provide a singular answer or path.
I’ve always had a passion to mentor and develop people that I’ve worked with, ultimately to get them to understand and then realize the potential in themselves they never knew existed. However, in my effort to lead in service to others, I’ve been more intentional about providing volunteer leadership/mentorship in a variety of contexts - to individuals, businesses or organizations.
While I hope I benefit those who ask for the mentorship, it’s just as satisfying to me when I see individuals or organizations explore possibilities that they never had considered. Or aspire to achievements they thought were out of their reach. Or take on challenges they thought were too difficult.
What’s most fulfilling about leading in service to others is I get back as much as I give. That’s how I’ll continue to show my gratitude for the incredible gift given to me three years ago today.