On Leadership: Small Gestures, Lasting Inspiration


Effective leaders have the unique ability to inspire others around them. In essence they are the coaches that you want to play for every day because they instill confidence, develop and celebrate talent, and inspire meaningful creativity, experience, and effort. The fascinating part is that each effective leader does it in his or her own unique way.

My first job after finishing graduate school was at a university in Pennsylvania. My commute was a close walk to campus and the first day of work was filled with excitement about the vast professional opportunities that lay ahead. Of course, like most first days on the job I anticipated spending my first day completing all kinds of necessary forms, getting a picture ID card, and immersing myself in center, division, and company policies.

After arriving to the building and spending a few minutes in my new office, my boss (I’ll call him IB) popped in to say hello and invited me to join him and another new colleague. I assumed that he was going to direct us to my anticipated list of tasks.

To my surprise he asked us to take a walk with him. IB led us across the campus to the athletic center where he proceeded to introduce us to the welcoming staff, register me for a membership, secure a locker, and walk us through the fitness center. We returned back to the office where IB requested that the administrative assistant “block out” 75 minutes for lunch on our calendars. IB encouraged us to think of it as “our time.”

Same day, fast forward to a few minutes before noon where I had been hunkered down reading and familiarizing myself with policy and IB returns to my office wearing running shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers. “Joel, I’m headed out for a run with my running buddies, be back soon.”

The implicit message was simple: Take care of yourself physically and mentally and I support you on that. Prioritizing your health will reflect in your job performance.

That dialogue occurred in August 2002. A simple gesture and a lasting, inspiring impression on leadership and company culture.

As busy leaders, how will you create moments like this and be mindful of the simple gestures and messages that create an inspiring impression on your employees and work culture?

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