The Gift of Leadership

By Mark Rulle

Giving and receiving gifts is on all of our minds this time of year.

While you’re checking off your list, it may also be a good time to think about the intangible things you give and receive throughout the year, including conversations, visits, and helping hands.

We tend to celebrate the season by sharing ourselves with others, and leadership too is rooted in the act of sharing.

If you are the designated leader then, most likely, someone gave you the opportunity to assume that position. If you, like most of us, report to a leader, there’s a good chance that leader has given you opportunities to perform, to be engaged, and to use your skills.

It can be easy to compare our work to the transactional nature of gift giving – work for pay v. gift for gift.

When I think back to the special gifts that leaders throughout my career gave to me, a few special leaders come to mind. I remember the opportunity that one man created for me to build my confidence and learn to interact with strangers, allowing me to have a fulfilling career.

Another leader encouraged my creativity, which gave my job meaning, created fun and enjoyment, and  led me to my current role.  A third person — who in retrospect was a flawed leader —  created situations where I had to question my own thinking and motivations in the face of his displeasure and “business before people” approach to life. Fortunately, I believe, I eventually learned that by putting people first, good business results would follow. I have not been disappointed.

As a leader I recognize that I am not perfect —not even close! However, I recognize that the more I can share my gifts, the more valuable they become to both me and those I share them with.

They include being empathetic, as well as being open and receptive to new ideas, not jumping to conclusions, and recognizing that I may not have the best answer.

But perhaps the greatest gift, which I learned later in life, was based on Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development called generativity — or making your mark on the world through creating or nurturing things that will outlast you.

I embrace this by concentrating effort on helping people I work closely with “create a good life” for themselves. Yes, I am their supervisor. Yes, I have business results to achieve.

But also those results are more meaningful when the team working to achieve them enjoy the work and take time to live a good life.

After all, work exists to provide a means to life.  If I can create it in such a way that those who are working have a better life because of the way I organized work and interacted with each of them — then doesn’t “leadership become one of the  most important gifts any of us who work can give?

Mark Rulle is President of the Maryland Healthcare Education Institute.

  • Linda Jones

    Great message!

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