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Men in leadership, guess I won the lottery!

Saira Valley

Posted on November 13 2019

Men in leadership, guess I won the lottery!

Yesterday I was at a business meeting and a lovely gentleman asked some great questions about our experiences with leaders in our professional careers. I thought about it and smiled a big happy smile, because I have loved all of my bosses from corporate America.  I was asked to check off the things about them that stood out as stellar qualities! They were all visionaries, with compassion and empathy, they laughed a lot and were humble, and they were charming and patient. I must have checked off every single box. I looked at it with great satisfaction! I loved my bosses. 

I then shared about my boss from when I was just a 19 year old starting out. Mark Miller. He gave me my first ever real job, I got a salary, health insurance and vacation days. It was truly mind blowing to me. Looking back, he had no reason to hire me for that job. I was a temp, I knew nothing. But I showed up everyday, and I worked hard and I was teachable. So, he took a chance. That chance set my career into motion. I was only with him for a short while before he moved away, but Mark taught me to take risks in leadership on good people. He taught me to see a person, not a resume, he taught me to listen and ask questions, and he taught me to never judge someone for their mistakes but to teach them to do better. He was an incredible leader. 

My second boss was Randy. Man, I loved him. He was another boss who was a guy. A VP who took a chance on someone. He hired me as a director when I was clearly not ready for it. But, like Mark he saw that I would work harder than anyone else, that I was teachable and that I was excited. Randy taught me how to think like a visionary, he knew how to ask the right questions to foster my strategic mind. He was a great listener and never made me feel like I was anything less than his equal as a human, even if I was his subordinate as an employee. He taught me how to be a friend to my staff without losing my authority. He taught me about patience and the importance of measured, thoughtful work. That coming in first wasn't as important as coming in right. 

My third boss was an inspiration, a super smart scientist who will one day change the face of medicine as we know it. John was one of my absolute favorite people to work for. He believed in me. John taught me so much about small business ownership and the importance of networking and collaboration. He taught me how to understand complex networks of ideas, and how to bring them all together. He taught me how to trust myself when I was stretching and growing into new areas of expertise. He empowered me more than anyone I've ever worked for, and he was a tremendous friend. 

And of course, the first, last and forever leader. My father. I think my dad was an accidental leader, he never really wanted to be a boss but he knew he never wanted to answer to anyone. He was actually a terrible boss to his staff, he would say the same! What he taught me was that life is too short to live for a paycheck and a 401K. That I had the power and insight within me to build my own life in my own vision, and that I didn't have to follow the currents. I could create my own. 

The room seemed surprised to hear my story about Mark; it was like having an empathetic, strong and supportive male leader was as rare as winning the mega millions. And yet, I've had the good fortune to have four exceptional male leaders in my life who have shaped me into the person I am today. A person I am proud to be. 

It made me so thankful to have met these men, who clearly were more than just good leaders to me, but pioneers in a corporate world flooded with men who apparently don't see the world the way they do. I never once felt the need to apologize for needing to get home to a sick kid, or leave early to make a game. In fact, I was supported and applauded for my commitment to being a great parent, AND a great employee. 

I can only hope that leaders like them can rise to the top and teach others (regardless of gender) how to be effective leaders in a world that is clearly cluttered by those who still believe authority is exercised through fear and control, rather than cultivated through mutual loyalty and collaboration. 

I left that meeting full of gratitude for the leaders I've had the privilege to work with, who are 100% the future of not just male leaders, but all leaders. 

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