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A leader who inspired me: true story

Over at the Leadership Hub we are running a competition to hear your stories about a leader who inspired you. The prize is a free book.

So, to start off, here’s my example.

Obviously, I can’t submit this to the competition as a story. ‘Cos, er, I decide who wins it. And I’ve already got the book anyway 🙂 (Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. Brilliant new book, re-defines productivity).

But, I’ve written up the true story, below, as an example of what we want: a true leader story with some learning in it for all of us.

And here’s the entry form if you want to submit a story about a leader who inspires/inspired you.

One of the best bosses I ever had

I worked in a team of 12 in a large organization that was going through a severe budget squeeze.

Our boss, like the head of all departments and units, was asked to make a large percentage cut in expenditure, fast.

Everyone across the organization knew this exercise was was a “Who you gonna fire?” exercise for the department and unit heads – management as do-ers and the rest of the organization employees as ‘done to’.

Because reducing headcount was the only way to hit the savings targets.

So, my boss calls us all together for the meeting where we’re told who’s got their job and who hasn’t.

This is what she said:

“I reported back to the Board on my recommendations for achieving our budget-saving targets.

I said we could lose three of you or one of me. My recommendation was that we lose me. I attempted to hand in my resignation.

This recommendation was refused.

They’ve given me two months to come up with something else.

So, what shall we do?”

What we did was each come up with savings in how we worked that cut 20% from the budget without losing anyone. Especially without losing her. And we did it with a sense of urgency and commitment you wouldn’t believe.

And we were all fiercely loyal to that boss for ever after.

Her name is Mary Scott. Wonder what she’s doing now; I lost track of her.

What I learned

Real leaders provide air cover for the people who work for them; they stand up for them, go to the wall for them, put the service the unit provides first, and their own career second. And by giving like that they reap far more in loyalty, engagement, innovation in the face of adversity, passion, productivity and team spirit than leaders who put themselves first. That’s what I learned.  And I will always try to lead like Mary Scott led me; she inspired me with what’s possible.

PS She was canny and calculating (in a good way) , not naive and self-sacrificial. She knew she was so good (but she was humble with it) that they’d never let her go; but that it would buy her time to work with us. And that she could present us with the challenge, and there was a good chance we’d be energised to come up with the solution together, focussed on that by her willingness to put herself on the line to protect us and our service. Yes, it was a calculated gamble. But she assessed the risk, innovated, and got it right 🙂

So, got a story like that – a true leader tale?

Submit it here

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