How This One Leader Changed My Life

July 14, 2018 Glenn Case
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Caterpiller changing to a butterfly signifying growth and potential

We all remember those strong leaders we've encountered in our lives. Their impact lingers because that's the nature of true leadership.

I learned early that the strongest leaders see beyond the immediate need. They see potential. Not just of the worker but of the individual.

Many years ago, green, young and fresh out of university, I was transported clear across the country to embark on my officer training with the Canadian military. For 13 gruelling weeks we were put through our paces, emotionally, mentally and physically. Our every turn scrutinized and assessed.

Our progress as potential future officers was measured in large part by success with a number of "tasks" given to us. These were high-pressure opportunities to show our potential as leaders.

Pressure that I hadn't been prepared for. I bombed out of my first task, and my second and third weren't much better. My confidence took a hit. I began to second-guess not only what I was doing, but also why I was doing it. I began to seriously doubt my own capability.

In retrospect, I was becoming caught in my own self-limiting bubble.

It finally came down to the "do or die" day. A task that I absolutely had to knock out of the park in order to succeed. Although I dreaded it, I so badly wanted to do this - if for no other reason to prove to myself that I could. But I also harboured much self-doubt.

Fortunately for me that day, my assessing NCO - a grizzled Warrant Officer - had seen something more in me. As I was preparing my plan, he brought us each a coffee and he sat calmly with me - asking questions, prompting my creativity. Creating a supportive environment that allowed me to tap into what existed deep within.

Gone was that tough, uncompromising NCO that I'd come to know. It had been replaced by a supportive guide. A believer of others. One who saw the potential in me when I least saw it in myself.

I completed the task with flying colours, going on to complete my training and earn my commission. 

While I eventually moved on to civilian life, I've never forgotten nor taken for granted that Warrant Officer's leadership that day. It was because of his effective leadership that I succeeded. The confidence that ignited in me that day fuelled each day of my life since.

And, on that day, he had demonstrated what a true leader should be. Gave me an invaluable leadership lesson that had contributed immensely to my own journey as a leader over the ensuing 25 years.

US General Stanley McCrystal said it best: "Leaders can let you fail, but not let you be a failure."

I learned so many lessons in that 13 weeks - yes, many of them stemming from my failures. But it was this Warrant Officer - this leader - that understood that failure is an integral part of the learning process. And that I'd had within me all of the makings of a successful officer and leader.

Leadership is an amazing opportunity to change the course of an individual's life. To guide them to levels they may have never achieved - or even have been aware of - on their own.

It is an honour and a responsibility. My Warrant Officer took this to heart, and I derived its full benefit. For this, I will be forever grateful.

About Glenn

Glenn helps business leaders and other high-achievers realize their full potential through building self-awareness and mastering their mental game. Contact him at www.glenncasecoaching.com.

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