I Met A Leader Today

By: Jim Bruce
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Today’s Tuesday Reading, I Met A Leader Today, is an essay by Mary Fuller, originally written as a reflection early in the University of Nebraska on-campus leaders program.  Mary is a member of the Data Warehouse Team of the University of Nebraska Computing Services Network.
 
I left our first 2-day session of the MOR Leaders last October with a strange combination of energy and exhaustion. There were all kinds of ideas rolling around in my head. My next MOR assignment, which was going to be due in just over two weeks, was to write a leadership reflection – an observation of leadership in action, or an application of a topic from the program. I started looking for a leader the very next day.
 
I arrived in San Francisco the following Sunday to attend the OpenWorld conference, joining 60,000 other people who have some sort of interest in Oracle. In my hotel room that night, after three days of being on the lookout for a leader, I was beginning to wonder how I would know one when I saw one. I had watched Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman and CEO of Oracle, give his Keynote and thought, “Well, there’s the leader of Oracle, maybe I can use him for my assignment.” It was weird though, I didn’t get a very clear picture of his leadership by watching him go through his presentation on a very large stage, with a very large audience.
 
It’s now Monday night and I have been to many, mostly nondescript, OpenWorld sessions. However, one afternoon session has stuck with me, a session titled, “Big Data – the Challenges of Big Data and Analytics in Education.” After the presentation was over, the speaker was gathering his materials to leave, when I approached him and said, “Chris, I really enjoyed your presentation. Actually, it was the best one I’ve been to all day.” That’s all it took. He sat down and we talked for about 15 minutes about some of the challenges of data, big data, analytics, implementations, strategies, politics, and costs. We only stopped talking when the room was needed for the next session. As Chris started to walk away, he looked me in the eye and said, “Take care, Mary.”
 
It hit me like a ton of bricks! Of course! It was so clear that he was the Leader I’d been watching for! I may have initiated our conversation, but he inquired. As a result, in that short amount of time, he built a relationship with me. “Take care, Mary.” That felt personal. I recalled his presentation, in which he shared a vision of how educational institutions can take advantage of processes and products to add value to their organizations and to achieve their goals. To further explain that vision, he also shared strategies that enabled his audience to see how the vision could be achieved.
 
Relationship Building. Having and Sharing a Vision. Sharing Strategy. These are qualities of a leader. There was one other thing that struck me, probably more than anything else, and that was how I felt after his presentation and our short talk. I felt energized! I felt excited! I felt motivated! I also felt a bit empowered. It’s truly amazing that one person can have that kind of an effect on another.
 
There’s a quote in our workbook from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
 
That was my leader that day.
 
That was Chris.
 
In the coming week, think about Mary’s experience in meeting a leader that day at the Oracle conference.  Who will you find today?  How will you work to build a relationship with that leader?  I think that Mary’s point is that if we are looking, really looking, we will find our leader and we can begin to build a meaningful relationship with him or her.
 
And, remember, for some people the leader they are searching for is you!  Will you engage them as Mary’s Chris did?  How will you make them feel?
 
Make your week a great week.  .  .  .    jim

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