Super excited to share this guest post with you. One of the best leaders and motivators of people I know, Leslie Weaver. She also happens to be my wife. Leslie has supported me in more ways than I can list. Every crazy dream I have had. Always pushing me to to be the best version of myself. In her current job she leads hundreds of people and under her leadership the program has gone from just ok to amazing. She had some experiences last week that where game changers for her and didn’t want this tribe to miss it.
This past week was a week of up’s and down’s. It was a week of reflection, saying goodbye and yet celebrating life. It was a week of disappointment in others’ actions and realizing that you are only responsible for your actions and decisions. It was a week to realize that people matter. People who know this and who love and show this through their words and actions stand out. It is a simple principle, yet few practice it. I ended my week listening to a series by Andy Stanley called “The Power of Mentoring.” You can view it here:
After listening to this I thought about my leadership journey and people who have taken the time to invest in me and impacted me on my journey. Leadership is a big word for me and something I am passionate about developing in myself and other people. I was thinking about what experiences, things, and people have shaped me into the leader whom I am today. I thought about my experience as a competitive athlete, supervisors that I had, and mentors. Other people have molded and shaped me besides those mentioned below, but these people stood out. Of course there are my parents who taught me a lot and helped me become the person that I am today, but the people below are those who did not have to invest in me, challenge me, or make a difference but did……
My first lesson in shaping me as a leader was my experience as an athlete. For those who did not know me in my young life, I was a competitive gymnast. The organization where I spent endless hours working out, training, and representing at competitions was about more than the sport. We learned about discipline, doing your best, cheering others on, being a part of a team, and investing in others by coaching when we were old enough. All those drills and conditioning were great for building your muscles and increasing flexibility. Thinking back, it was about teaching you not to give up, to keep developing your skills, and persistence. In gymnastics, you learn how to be your best and also to work as a team. You compete as an individual and as a team. You want what is best for the team and represent them while trying to do your best. The people who were involved in the organization were solid people. They were people of integrity. They would have done anything for you or your family. They knew they played an important role in developing not just athletes, but future leaders. There were several coaches who really invested in me and saw my potential.
My second lesson in shaping me as a leader was in college and a mentor named Carrie Beaird. When I went off to college, I was a fairly new Christian. I always say I really enjoyed my first two years of college, then I got my act together! Carrie helped me with that. She encouraged me as a person, in my faith, and knew I had leadership skills that could help others. She pushed me to take on leadership roles. She asked me hard questions and challenged me to invest in other people. I found myself in numerous leadership roles from a freshman group leader, President of the BSM, on the State council and then an internship after college at another college.
After college, I took on several little jobs to pay the bills while I figured out what I wanted to do. I worked many retail jobs, helped an insurance agent, inventory (that did not last long), cold sales calls, even worked at the library (sounded like a good idea, but you can’t talk) and disliked many of them. What I learned is that some people just have a job, and other people are passionate about what they are doing and how they can have a positive impact on other people. I had a lot of not so good supervisors. One supervisor stands out to me. Her name was Margie. She was the Regional Manager at YankeeCandle. I was just a seasonal helper at the time. I vividly remember her coming to visit one day during the Christmas holiday season. We were swamped and going nonstop. A shipment arrived, and we needed the product on the shelves. She stopped everything she had on her agenda that day and started unloading the truck and came alongside the staff and started stocking the shelves with merchandise. She had a lot of other things to do that day, but knew leading by example was vital to the success of the store and people working that day. Eventually, I moved into a leadership position with the company, and got to know her better. She was always encouraging, yet able to provide constructive ways to improve the store. She had a supportive ear to listen to challenges and make necessary difficult changes. She was visible, present, and lead by example. After a few years, I realized I hated retail work and was not utilizing my degree or skills in that line of work. Yep, to this day I don’t frequent the mall very often.
After my stint in retail, I started what I call my real career. I began working for Girl Scouts. I remember walking into my interview and connecting with the lady who interviewed me. We shared a lot of similar interests and even our childhood experiences. She grew up living overseas and moving a lot, and her children were in several of the same sports as I had been. Later, I learned she would be my supervisor. What I did not know is she would become friend, mentor and encourager. Her name was Edna Neprud. She was a special person. What made her special is she cared about you as a person and wanted what was best for you. She would encourage you to try new things and support you when it did not go as planned! She would step right in and do the hard work with you. She would listen when you were discouraged and challenged you to think about what you could do differently next time. She encouraged our team to work together, support each other, and use each other as a resource.
It was a sad day when she retired. I don’t think any of her staff realized how great of a boss we had. She was one of my biggest cheerleaders and one of the best references on my resume. I would have done anything for her that she asked as a supervisor and been okay with it. She earned the right and trust from me to guide and lead me. It was a sad day when she passed away last week. I was sad to lose a friend, mentor, and reference. You see, she believed in me and knew me. She knew what I was capable of achieving and sometimes things I did not even know I could achieve! It was great to celebrate her life. At her funeral, it was motivating and heartwarming to see and hear the impact she made on others.
It seems like about once every 10 years I have a leader, mentor, or supervisor in my life that really makes a strong impact on me. As I take on more and more leadership roles, I realize it is my turn to invest other people and take what I have learned and share it with others. It is also my responsibility to continue to grow as a leader and leave room to be shaped and molded into a better leader. I am grateful for my current supervisor. I could not have a better person to look to for guidance, support, and to share my crazy ideas and vision for our program. I love that she does not laugh at them and helps me figure out how to make them a reality. With this, I embark on a journey towards becoming more like these leaders who left a mark on me.