By Dean Whittaker

I never set out to be a leader. One summer in 8th grade I was sponsored by my small town American Legion to attend Boys State, a one-week summer camp at the state capital. Boys State teaches young people about citizenship and leadership. (Note: there is and was a Girls State, as well.) Because I was a foot taller than the rest of my classmates, I was made the platoon leader. One morning marching under my command, my platoon was headed towards a four-foot high hedge. Unfortunately, I could not for the life of me remember the command to turn the column. As a result, we marched right over the hedge and kept on going. And so began my role as a leader.

Fifty years later, after leading several organizations including my own company, I am still learning about leadership. Earlier this month, via simulcast, I experienced the 2018 Global Leadership Summit. The speakers, fifteen in total, included entrepreneurs, pastors, authors, business consultants and an investment banker. By personal example they showed us how a caring heart lead what we do in our interactions with others. Even in the board room. The theme of the Summit is Influence, how everyone has it.

Carla Harris, Craig Groeschel, and Simon Sinek were the speakers that impacted me most.

Carla Harris, an investment banker, who also has a following as a gospel singer, told us to bring “all of yourself” to the table. Although we may appear to be single-faceted, and single-driven, we are the sum total of all our life interests and passions. For Ms. Harris that meant bringing some of her singing-passion to Wall Street meetings. When we meet people in a business setting, we need to step in and connect as humans, first, for meaningful conversation to happen. Ms. Harris said to be willing to be authentic is our true “competitive advantage.” Showing someone who we are, lets them get to know us and invites them to open to us as well.

Craig Groeschel is a senior pastor at Life Church, a multi-location church. Rev. Groeschel’s message about leadership hit home when he said that the number one reason good employees leave a company is because they don’t feel valued. As an employer, I need to check in and make sure the team I work with feels valued and heard. As a leader of an innovative church that has a strong online presence, a place for people to connect, Groeschel stressed our need to anticipate and embrace new technologies rather than struggle to adapt to them.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, highlighted the importance of beginning with why (and then worry about the how and what). Too often, I default to the expedient “what,” which is more about accomplishing a task. Thinking about “why” takes me back to center, and why we are doing what we are doing in the first place.

All-in-all my participation in The Global Leadership Summit was a good reminder: ultimately, we are all leaders. We all have influence. If we lead with all-of-who-we are, the results will be better for everyone. Since I led a group of teen boys up and over a hedge, I’d like to think I’ve learned some things about leadership. Anticipation is certainly a key ingredient. Staying connected to my core values is another. Sometimes you have to go with your best judgment in-the-moment. I am grateful for the Summit in reminding me of these truths.