A Lesson in Leadership

Our most valuable lessons can sometimes be taught not by those who possess wisdom who surround us but rather by that voice that speaks to us from within when we are left alone with our thoughts to ponder the question every leader should ask him or herself, at one time or another, and that is the question of, “how am I leading”?.

It is just several hours since the Women Are Talking 2014 Virtual Global Summit and after many months of contemplating and planning, and ultimately experiencing what will be one of the highlights of my life, I am up in the wee hours of the morning. writing what I hope will serve as one of my most valuable lessons on how good leaders lead.

I am visionary! And what that means is that at any moment of any given day, my mind is flooded with thoughts and ideas of what’s next. People like myself are incapable of resting on their laurels and what fuels us is not seeing an idea come to fruition, but rather the next idea that comes out of accomplishing a goal and the challenge of and possibilities of getting it done. We are wheels that are in perpetual motion, on their way to a destination whose finish line is constantly being pushed and moved to someplace in the distance.

While winding down, my thoughts and rerunning the reels of what I know was a job well done, I was reminded of the fact that wheels turn not because of the wheel itself but rather because of the spokes that keeps it in balance and on course, moving it, consistently and with accuracy to where it needs to go.

In my time of reflection concerning the events leading up to and finally culminating into something, that I now realize will perhaps define what will be my life legacy, I remembered that in all my doing and directing, I failed to adequately acknowledge publicly, the all-important spokes that got me here.

Leaders lead but they do not lead alone. And that is certainly the case with me. I have been blessed immeasurably by people who have stood beside me, some over a course of many years, believing in and supporting each new idea, each new dream, and they have never waned in being the spokes in the wheel that keeps me moving, keeps me pushing forward to where, God only knows.
These women, who were the spokes who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for Women Are Talking 2014, are the kind of women every leader looks for to support the vision that no one else sees. Jacquelyn Armstrong Smith, Andrea Rock, Beverly Kirk, Sandra Martin, Kortnei Morris, Jessica Herbert, China Dickerson and Olivia Stallings, and my beautiful daughter, Allison McDaniel, you are the spokes that got us here. And for teaching me, in your own special way, what it means to lead, thank you. Because of you, this is what I know this day:

  1. Leadership is about leading, but more importantly, it is about taking the time to feel and acknowledge the support of the spokes that keeps the engine going. And what that means is, always remembering to say please and thank you, even if , and especially if, you think they know that is what you mean.
  2. Leadership means listening to and hearing what might be needed by those who support you, not by what they say, but rather by what you are able to observe in expressions and demeanor that might be saying to you, “I am here”! That means you must take the time to stop and remember that everyone needs to know, and hear, how much they are valued.
  3. Leadership means periodically stepping outside of the big picture and allowing yourself to become a spoke and feel the burdens and concerns of those who support you.
  4. Leadership means taking the time to savor the moment of accomplishment before heading off to the next idea or destination. Leaders must allow those who support them the moment to bask in and feel the pride of accomplishment and acknowledge that it was they who helped to bring it to fruition.
  5. And finally, leadership means having the courage to say, please forgive me for forgetting to remind you of just how much you are valued.

It is a tough thing being a leader and you must constantly remind yourself that the greatest reward of leadership is not in the glory and accolades one receives, but rather in the trust and honor given to you by those around you who allow you to lead. How good is that……
Bonnie McDaniel
Founder – Women Are Talking Initiative

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