It was mid-afternoon and my sixth grade classmates and I were in the middle of a lesson. Suddenly, the deep voice of the principal boomed over the loudspeaker. “Mr. Doyle, I need your help. Mrs. Jones will be out the rest of the day and I need someone to be in the office to answer phones and greet visitors.” He went on, “I need someone confident and responsible. Someone like …” and then he said my name!
Of course, my teacher excused me from class and I walked down the glazed brick hallway to the office. I timidly opened the door to find the principal sitting at the secretary’s desk. “Come in! Come in! Thank you for helping us out!” he said warmly. He proceeded to show me how the phones worked and how to use a pad with carbon paper to take messages. Once he was sure I knew what to do he retreated back into his office and I was left alone with the seemingly immense responsibility of the office.
There have been other times in my life when someone reached into me and revealed something that I hadn’t seen in myself. They remind me that our blind spots don’t just keep us from recognizing our faults but can also be keeping us from seeing our gifts. The best leaders look for gifts in others, and then help them to develop those gifts. They encourage others into leadership by providing confidence-building experiences and meaningful service.
Other than a couple of phone calls, that afternoon in the office was itself uneventful. But the experience of having someone with so much power and authority not only to see potential in me, but spend unhurried time to help me realize that potential, was a life-changing gift.
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant