In my last post I looked at the full cosmos to focus and gain perspective. One can not observe space and the cosmos without thinking about time. To look at the stars is to be a time traveler. Thousands of years ago light from a distant star pointed toward Earth and reached out to me as I look to the sky.
Today I am thinking about my own life and origin. We all have an origin story, unique and ours.
A bit of inward time travel if you will – how I was raised and the influences in my life. As I focus on leadership I can not forget the influence of my origin story on my unique brand of leadership. We work to create models, best practices and programs that show us the way of the effective leader. While all this is important, let us not forget the unique expression each of us brings to our leadership.
The title of this post, Raised By Wolves, refers to my upbringing where I was heavily influences by my father and his coworkers. My father was a Police Officer (now happily retired) and those he worked with were more than coworkers … they were brothers, they were family. As a young kid, teenager, and early in my work career I was nearly always around my father’s extended family in the police department.
There were gatherings, celebrations, difficult times, and simple days when I just hung out with these men. As I got older I worked at an Athletic and Social Club for Police Officers that my father founded. I witnessed first hand how these men and women interacted and lead their lives. Over time it became clear that I would not grow up to be one of them. My path involved college and eventually a business career. Nonetheless, my white-color bleeds blue and I am grateful for the way I was raised and the Police Officers who shaped me.
Here are some items I learned from my “family of wolves” that has influenced me as a leader:
Family and Community – Police Officers act as family and maintain a strong community. I had many favorite uncles, none of whom were related to me. Why not the same for our work environments – a stronger sense of community and yes, even family.
History and Stories – With Police Officers there is a strong sense of history and the generations who came before. They want to remember and pass on hard learned lessons to the next generation. A Police Officer has a difficult job these days which is often thankless. They learn from each other and through their stories, they understand how to do their job and carry on the history. I talked about it before – the importance of story, legacy and history for our leadership practice.
Be Prepared and Ready to React – Police officers are not proactive beings. Nonetheless, they are ready. They practice often for many scenarios. They go to work each day ready to react to the circumstances they face. Yes, sometimes they make poor decisions, but far more often they make important and correct decisions under difficult circumstances. In business we focus on being proactive. Alas, this ideal does not always work out and at times we need to react to a situation. A true leader while focused on the proactive, will be ready to react as necessary. In fact it is how we are ultimately judged. Yes, he was a strong proactive leader, but when needed he also reacted quickly, with authority and saved the day.
Take Corners Wide – This tip has always stuck with me. When chasing a bad guy down the street always take the corner wide when turning as he may be waiting right around the corner to ambush you. In business we have our own versions of the ambush – unknown and difficult issues right around the corner. With confidence we do our own version of charging around the blind corner. Remember to take it wide and be ready for anything.
That is my story. As you read this think of your own story. Be a time traveler and go back to check your influences. Let us not forget how each of us is unique as a person, as a leader.
What a beautiful story, Michael. I am so excited that I found your blog! I love your experience of family and of the value of history in learning life’s lessons. Such a positive outlook is so refreshing! It is clear that you are still very much a part of this family. Perhaps not in person, but definitely they are a part of you.
Amy – thank you for the touching comment. It is wonderful to read as I start the work week. Yes, we need to remember where we came from and how it influences us today. All the best to you and I will read your work.