“It’s never going to go away.”
The words hung there.
They were true the way water is wet.
I remember the air felt heavy and every minute felt like an eternity – life in slow motion.
Back then, I always wanted a moment with this particular leader. A chance. I had so many ideas, so many impacts to make, and so many achievements I wanted to deliver…
Not this day; This day I wanted to be with my team. To this leader’s credit, he wanted to be there for me.
He stopped everything for me.
Years before, he had someone he lead who had chosen to take their own life. At this moment, he was helping me because I was living through the very same unspeakable tragedy.
He was right too, it’s never truly gone away.
I swear I see her across a crowded store. I glance up and see her and for a split second and I forget the reality of the situation. In these moments I think about telling her how my son is or asking her how she is.
Then, in an instant, I realize that can’t be here and the air is heavy all over again… the way it is right now as I’m writing this.
I cannot tell you how much I think about this, it comes and goes but it’s become a companion of sorts. A reminder.
I’ll never forget that conversation in his office; it’s the moment this leader connected with me on a human level more than ever before. He did what I was doing for my team at the time; he did it for me. There’s a lot more to the conversation we had, but that’s between him and me.
To this day, I would walk through fire for him and I haven’t worked with him in years; the loyalty is still there, and honestly, it will probably always be there – more happened than this one moment, this one moment just demonstrated his leadership best.
We all lead in different ways, the most essential aspect of leadership is remembering to pay attention to our shared humanity while challenging people to be more.
This article has more gravity to it than my usual messages, but the weight comes with a purpose.
As leaders, we have to be present even when our priorities beg us to focus on the problem and not the people – that’s the trick of leadership. If you focus on the people, they will solve the problem.
That’s the leadership moment that will never leave me. No matter where you are in the chain, take those moments of assurance seriously.
Be there first. Pull people in, work the problem, but be there first.
I work hard to be there for the people I’m trusted to lead because of the examples of leadership I had given that support. I know what it’s like to have that and want others to know it too.
There is very little I could have done to change what happened to the person who chose to leave life, but I was there for my team and as I’ve moved forward in leadership it remains the most important duty I have to those around me.
Make the people matter the most.