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!

I didn’t really see myself as a leader.  I didn’t think the principal even knew who I was.  What did he see in me that I didn’t see in myself?  I was just a kid, after all.phone

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

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the CERG regional website.
  • Mark Bernstein

    Renee,
    Your story reminds me that as leaders we have a responsibility to lift up others as leaders. The Board President who is two months away from ending his/her tenure and proclaims “thank goodness” to all who can hear, is not fulfilling this responsibility.

  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    Beautiful. My experience is that some of the leaders I have had to nudge into taking a broader role have turned out to be the best… even when their first response is “who me?” That humility is a good start… the next step is building confidence.