Leaders Make Time to Reflect on the Relationships That Helped Them Advance on Their Journeys 2024-06-24T05:00:55-04:00


Two things happened this week that prompted me to reflect on the people who helped me along my own leadership journey and to think about whether I had expressed my appreciation to them meaningfully and periodically. Did they realize how much I valued our relationship and how much they had taught me?

The first event started Monday morning. I was attending a meeting in our Rabbi’s office. Halfway through the meeting, his phone dinged with a text and when he looked at it, he exclaimed “What?! What?!” He told us that a well-respected, active and vital member of our congregation, a friend we all admired for his passion for social justice, had died in his sleep Sunday night. We adjourned the meeting, he rushed out and we were all left in shock.

Two days later the funeral service was held and there was not an empty seat in the synagogue sanctuary. Why? Over the years, this unassuming man, who had helped run two businesses, “collected” relationships – with employees, with vendors, with customers and with their families.

He made it his business to let people know how he felt about them and how much he appreciated them. He did it in person, by phone and on Facebook. He did it with his family members, his mentors, his friends and his colleagues. This all came through loud and clear in the eulogies that were delivered by his wife and children and by our Rabbi.

Sitting in the group of about 500 mourners, I asked myself: “How could this one man have made such a positive impact upon so many people?” Then I answered my own question silently: “He was intentional about developing, sustaining and enriching relationships. He did not take them for granted. He made sure to tell people how much they meant to him and how they had impacted his life.”

As we left the synagogue and headed to our car, I vowed to strive harder to follow his role modeling: to reach out to leaders who have helped me grow as a leader, to tell friends, relatives and former colleagues how much I appreciate their contributions to my personal and leadership growth, and to make sure I continue to role model positive leadership for the people within my own circle of influence.

The second thing that happened for me this week that ties directly into these insights was I finished a powerful book which was published in 2023. The title is “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.” The co-authors, Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Schulz, PhD, direct the Harvard Study of Adult Development that was started 87 years ago and is still ongoing.

The study has examined multiple generations of the same families – all aspects of their lives – to determine what creates true happiness and well-being for men and women as they grow from teenagers to old age.

The one overarching conclusion the Harvard Study has revealed over the decades is that healthy and strong relationships are the number one contributing factor to:

-a longer life

-better overall health

-consistent happiness

As I have written in this newsletter before, my motto during my career has been “It’s all about relationships.” I believe that any success and effectiveness I have enjoyed during my personal leadership journey has been based upon the relationships I managed to forge along the way.

At the conclusion of their book Waldinger and Schulz write:

“Thousands of stories from the Harvard Study show us that the good life is not found by providing ourselves with leisure and ease. Rather, it arises from the act of facing inevitable challenges, and from fully inhabiting the moments of our lives.

It appears, quietly, as we learn how to love and how to open ourselves to being loved, as we grow from our experiences, and as we stand in solidarity with others through the inevitable string of joys and adversities in every human life.

How do you move further along on your own path toward a good life? First, by recognizing that the good life is not a destination. It is the path itself, and the people who are walking with you. As you walk, second by second, you can decide to who and to what you give your attention. Week by week, you can prioritize your relationships and choose to be with the people who matter.

Year by year, you can find purpose and meaning through the lives that you enrich and the relationships that you cultivate. By developing your curiosity and reaching out to others – family, loved ones, coworkers, friends, acquaintances – with one thoughtful question at a time, one moment of devoted authentic attention at a time, you strengthen the foundation of a good life.”

My friend who died Sunday night followed this advice.

Let’s all reflect on his role modeling.

Let’s all focus on our relationships.

Let’s never take them for granted.

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