Launching a Leadership Revolution

When I was in college, I had a lot of crazy jobs.  My freshman year I worked as a stadium cleaner– after football games we’d clean the bleachers and the entire stadium.  After the games all my friends would go out for ice cream while I got to scrape nachos off the bleachers, and pick up dirty diapers. Fun, right?
Some other jobs I had during college- I cut up fruit and made fruit trays at 4:30am every morning– That was pretty fun too.  I can remember a few nights where I barely went to bed before 4:30, so getting up that early was quite challenging. I remember actually falling asleep once, while standing up!  I was standing there, chopping fruit with this huge knife, and I was…. dozing… off…  Yikes! Not something you want to do while wielding a very sharp knife.
Then I got a job at the campus bookstore, which seemed like a total dream after those other jobs.  Working during daylight hours?  Yes please!   Working with no nacho cheese involved? Yes please!
One day I was working at the bookstore when a friend of mine came in. We were both art majors.  Actually, I was working on my bachelors degree, and he was working on his Masters degree– but we were both in the art program. He told me that he had just come from an interview at the Museum of Art on campus, and that the person interviewing him said that he was overqualified for the job… because he was a Master’s student.
So did that mean I WASN’T overqualified?   He said I should call her.  And I did. She said “Can you come over now?”       I was in the middle of my shift at the bookstore, but I asked to take a 15 minute break and then ran across campus as fast as I could.  I ran through the bookstore, across the quad, through the art building, down the stairs, across the main floor, up the stairs, out the doors, through the sculpture garden, and… into the Museum of Art.   I was huffing and puffing. I was sweaty.  I walked into that interview with no preparation at all…  but I got the job!
Her name was Ellen Powley. She was the head of the Museum’s Education department, and despite my huffing and puffing, we had a great interview.  She said she felt really good about me, and offered me the job. I was shocked. I ran back to my other job, totally elated and ready for this new chapter in my life.
I didn’t know it then, but Ellen Powley would dramatically change my life.
Ellen Powley saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.  She gave me tasks that I felt were above my skill set– with the full expectation that I could (and would) do them. She believed in me. When executives or important guests visited the museum she would go out of her way to introduce them to me, as if I were the VIP. She would say “Oh, you have to meet my assistant Mandi!  Mandi is an art student…” and then she would sing my praises for several minutes.
She treated me with such respect- always giving me her full attention- always wanting to hear my opinion- always ready to help me succeed.
I suddenly felt a dramatic shift in my life. I was more confident. I discovered new talents and skills. I realized that I was capable of so much MORE in my life. I knew I could succeed. Ellen believed in me, so I believed in me.
Although I didn’t realize it until many years later, the qualities that I so admired in Ellen and the ways in which she affected me so dramatically– all those qualities and traits can be summed up in one simple word.
Ellen was a leader. She saw the very best in me, she edified me, and she helped me discover my potential. She inspired me.
All the problems in the world- war, hunger, greed– they are caused by a lack of leadership. Even problems in our families are caused by leadership problems. We have bosses, we have managers, we have politicians. But there are very few true LEADERS.
“Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.”
am working on my own leadership so that I can edify and inspire the people in my family, my team, my tribe. One of my greatest wishes is that everyone would read this inspiring book “Launching a Leadership Revolution” and would begin working on their own leadership skills. Think how we could transform our families, schools, and neighborhoods if more of us were leaders. Think how this would transform our cities, our nations, and our planet! Let’s launch a leadership revolution!
I will be forever grateful to Ellen Powley, and the many great leaders that have changed my life. I hope to be that same kind of leader for my children, my friends, and everyone within my circle. Leaders change lives!

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