Leadership Worth Remembering: 10 Types of Moments the Leaders We Remember Create
When you think back to all the bosses you’ve had over your career – who are the intentional, positive, and inspiring ones you remember?
What about them and how they led makes them memorable for you still today?
In my first year working after graduating college, I remember one boss who backed me up in what seemed like an immense challenge at the time, when he didn’t need to at all; in fact, he should have held me accountable instead.
He placed me in charge of a new project for a client. To be able to oversee the project though, I needed to complete some specific training. He gave me a deadline to complete the training so I would be able to begin the project with no issues.
But, in my busyness of being a new leader in a new role, I forgot to complete the training. I was not prepared to initiate the project on time for the client. For me at that time, that was an epic failure. I thought I was going to get fired. I sheepishly informed my boss of the bad news.
He could have fired me. He should have held me accountable based on my demonstrated incompetency. But he did neither. Instead, he took over as the project lead for those first two days in my place, allowing me the time to complete the necessary training. Once I completed it, he graciously handed the project responsibility over to me to see it to completion. There was no yelling, no disappointment speech, no belittling. He knew I learned my lesson in that moment and would not make that mistake again.
Almost 13 years later, I still remember my boss and that moment. He unconditionally supported me through a mistake – a pretty large personal failure – and gave me space to learn and grow.
What do we remember of our leaders and bosses? We remember the times when they provided a safe place to grow. We remember when they recognized and appreciated us, affirming that our work mattered. We remember how they pushed us to accomplish much more than we thought possible.
These things we remember all come down to moments. Leaders create moments.
A moment doesn’t have to be a singular action or event. It can also be a finite window of time like a project or a season of work. What’s important about the moment, however, is that a leader creates a memorable feeling through their words or actions. This memorable feeling is anchored to a moment that an employee can look back on and say, “This leader made me feel ____ when she did/said ____,” just like my old boss did when taking my place for a few days so I could correct my mistake.
Leaders create moments. We remember moments. Ultimately, we bond over; grow through; and feel seen, heard, and valued through the specific moments that leaders create for us. These leaders and these moments leave us feeling capable, inspired, and like we belong. They make us better than we were before.
In my personal experiences, in mentoring junior leaders and capturing their reflections, and in working with clients, I believe there are 10 types of moments that leaders can create. It’s through these moments we can positively impact others’ lives. It’s because of these moments that we remember bosses and leaders years later.
10 Types of Moments Leaders Create
The leaders we remember:
- Let us be our whole selves: We were not fearful of who we were or to bring our whole selves to work every day. We were encouraged to be our authentic selves.
- Provided a safe place to learn and grow: We felt safe to learn, to ask questions, to not know the answers, and to offer our perspectives to the group.
- Were disciplined and led by example: They impressed us with their work-ethic, care, dedication, and discipline in how they managed their time or themselves. They led with character, always doing the right thing for the right reason in the right way. We wanted to be like them, even when it seemed impossible.
- Backed us up in challenges: They always had our back. We were never left hung out to dry. If we needed support or “top cover,” they provided it. They backed us up when facing adversarial clients or leaders in the organization.
- Opened doors and new opportunities: They knew our personal goals or desires and did what they could to support them. They even went out of their way to create opportunities for us.
- Recognized and appreciated us: They took the time to express gratitude, which made us feel seen, valued, and like we belong. Their appreciation also served as positive feedback for our work.
- Developed us: They understood our unique developmental needs and poured into us, committing personal time and resources to invest in important skill, relationship, and leadership growth.
- Inspired us to stretch further: Placed us in challenging roles that stretched our abilities and capacities, encouraging us through it all.
- Affirmed that we and our work mattered: Communicated perspective and helped show us how our work contributed to a much larger picture and had impacts beyond what we could see ourselves.
- Supported us through mistakes and failure: Did not let failure define us. They helped us to learn from it, grow from it, and use it as part of our leadership story so that we can show other leaders that failure is not the end.
What Can We Do?
How can we use these types of moments to positively impact others? I know when I look at this list of 10 types of moments, I easily get overwhelmed. That’s a lot of things I need to do, and a lot of things expected of me!
While I do recognize that leadership is hard – it requires a lot from us every day – I also see that there are some simple steps we can take to tap into the power of these moments in our daily leader actions.
First, know that every event and interaction with someone is an opportunity to create a moment. Your words, your attitude, your gestures, and your actions as a leader all have more power than you think. Even the smallest of things can have a huge impact on creating one of these types of moments – how you respond to bad news, what questions you ask in meetings, asking more and talking less when you spend time moving about checking on different teams.
Second, remember that these are not singular, grand gestures. We don’t make a big deal about doing one of these once and call it good or mission complete. These are genuine, personal, and meaningful moments that we intentionally try to craft daily.
Third, look at your calendar for this week. Is there something on there where you can thoughtfully mold a moment around? This is an easy way to get it started as a habit. Maybe a colleague is retiring, and they have a small farewell get together this week at lunch. How can you make this into a moment they will remember? Can you share some comments like a personal story, the impacts they had on the organization, who they were and their character, and how they made you and the organization better? Moments like this orbit all around us each day. Try and identify one this week and craft it into a moment.
In the end, we don’t put effort into designing deliberate and impactful moments like these so that we become memorable bosses or leaders. This is not a self-enhancing exercise; it is not about us. It is a way to be more intentional in creating a workplace and workday experiences where our people feel valued, seen, inspired, capable, like they belong, and ultimately better than they were before. It’s about creating significant impacts in others, through others, and for others.