Earlier today, my family—like millions of other families—began the new school year. In our case, we had a fresh batch of eager kids ready to get to their campuses (I’ll come back to that in a moment; I know it might seem a bit peculiar to some readers). With a high school sophomore who went in one direction, and two sixth-graders and a very proud fifth-grader with my wife and I in another, we headed off towards the ‘Land of Excitement’.
What is remarkable about this year’s first day of school is the authenticity that each of our children have had as their eagerness to go back to school after a fun and quite enjoyable summer wound down. Unlike our older kids, who probably felt the academic year would be far more enjoyable if classes lasted 3 months and summer lasted 9, these kids actually have been motivated, challenged and inspired by their teachers over the last couple of years, and especially so last year. For our elementary school kids, the school uses a multi-grade classroom format, in which 2-3 grades of students are brought together for the year. While a very different model for us when we arrived to our new home & community, it has proven to be incredibly effective. In fact, perhaps what made this morning’s energy level uniquely high was that they had just discovered that they would each have the same teachers as last year.
This then, is the emphasis upon my message: That in a room in which more than a couple of dozen young people and a leader will spend about 9 months together in a process of learning, it was evident that the special nature of relationship between our children and their teachers, as evidenced by their sustained interest and desire to learn through homework, projects, class and school activities, and their grades all underscored the obvious manner in which these education professionals approached their work.
They chose to educate, to teach and inspire and do all they can to make sure that others learn, grow and aspire. They chose the position of teacher, but their professionalism most assuredly vaulted them to that of an educator, and as they have allowed themselves to be so much more to the young people they have prepared for the future, they have provided the gifts that only mentors and leaders. Indeed, they were offered a position and after they added their passion, it became a purpose. That purpose is the growth and success of others.
In many industries and professions, we meet others who have also had a uniquely powerful influence upon those lives they touch. People who give much more of themselves through not only their professional work, but through the gifts of the person they are while doing that work and all in a spirit of service and purpose. The proof of this notion is as immediate as any of us choose to recall it: Just think back to whom in your life has literally inspired you to the point that you aspire something even greater. There are likely a few very key individuals who have contributed to this process, and we honor each of them when we in turn lead a purpose-filled life.
The title of this article, ”Leading in a life of Purpose, not Preference”,isn’t an absolute in terms of a challenge. Rather, for you and I, the title is intended to call upon each of us that if we have a preference for our work, then let us prefer to be purpose-driven and to excel, and of course, to inspire those we serve.
Every day, there are dedicated teachers and developers who invest their talents, and wisdom and knowledge on primary and ancillary subjects all to help people grow into talented and highly skilled members of each of our professions and great contributors to our communities. Let’s reaffirm ourselves to the idea that when we lead the people who our teachers—along with families, friends and other mentors—have developed for success in our organization, we do so with a demonstrative value of the co-worker we have.
And we do it on purpose.