We have all had them; those little chance encounters where everything seems to have aligned, and things are never quite the same. For example, you missed your connection and you end up sitting next to a person you’ve never met, and begin a discussion about what you do for a living, and that person turns out to give you a lead on your next job. Or, you are at the grocery store, and run into an old friend that you have been thinking about lately. Or, you pick up a book or magazine and read an inspirational story that seems to be exactly what you needed at this particular moment.
These encounters are part of our lives, and we never know when they will occur, and you may never know if you were the source of one of these events. Some may refer to these events as fate, or karma. Others may see them in a different light. But, fundamentally each and every one of us has these types of events. And, may not recognize them at the time they occur. And, sometimes these particular events may or may not happen to you directly, but may be transmitted via family or company lore.
Examples of dramatic impacts via company lore are prevalent. Think about the stories surrounding the invention of the light bulb – why was it such a passion for Edison? Or, the development of the electric grid? There was the race to see which was best DC or AC between Tesla and Edison. How about the development of Facebook? Or, the naming of Phillips 66 – it was supposedly a random comment about how fast they were going or could have been a confluence of that comment or being on Route 66 at the time. Lore has a tremendous impact on an organization’s culture, and it is a lasting one.
While it is known that company culture impacts an individual’s leadership style, family lore and chance encounters can also have a lasting impact on our personal leadership style. In my family, there is the re-occurring theme of “got mad about something” and its ultimate consequence. The thing that the person got mad about may be lost, but the consequence is long lasting. Question my grandfather about why he left a particular job, he might have said “I got mad about something, so I quit and went to school.” The stories in my family are legendary, the getting mad caused a move to California, joining the military, running for office, speaking out, and the list goes on. The fundamental lesson from this lore is that it is OK to get mad about something, but you have to do something about it. It wasn’t acceptable to let the situation continue in its current state. You have to act. This lore has greatly impacted my personal leadership style and my life in general.
Additionally, I can point to chance encounters that have changed my perception or have changed how I approach a particular situation. For example, I have met individuals that have a mystic or aura about them – famous scientists, well-known politicians, etc. In my case, had the opportunity to meet them as individuals rather than in their well-known role, and got to know them as person rather than as an icon. By encountering these people in this fashion, you don’t have the barrier of thinking “there is no way I could be… because they are smarter, or have a certain connection, or more resources, etc.” Because you have seen or share something in common with them, you saw them as a real person, not as something bigger than life.
These types of encounters have an impact. They change our point of view or provide a hidden driver for a particular course of action. How many times have you witnessed a situation, where you have thought to yourself – I don’t want to handle a similar situation in that way? Or, say to yourself, “I don’t want to be that kind of leader.” We all do it. We all are the products of our particular environment. We all need to understand that these events may have just as much of a lasting influence on us as something we have worked on for years. These are life changing events.
We as leaders have to also understand while these events happen to us; we may be the source of the event for someone else. We need to show ourselves as real. We need to spread a kind word or encouragement to someone. We may be the connection that someone else need. We may be that spark for “getting mad about something.” Thus, we need to ponder our actions and be good role models.