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March 2012

The Leader in the Mirror

By | thinkCSC Leadership Series | No Comments

by Tom Hastings

wexnerI recently attended a Columbus EO event featuring one of central Ohio’s most distinguished business & community leaders, Les Wexner.

Wexner shared many stories that helped shape both his personal & professional life. He also discussed his love of reading, and in particular, he singled out biographies. He stated that biographies help him gain insight as to how other leaders think and act. In turn, these lessons help Wexner as he continues to grow his businesses and effectively lead his community.

Wexner went on to say that every leader goes through crucible moments. It is because of these extraordinary circumstances that we are able to glean valuable lessons about leadership from others, as well as ourselves. Mr. Wexner explained that the best leaders have a lot to teach us, based on both their successes and their failures.

Les Wexner is known here in Ohio and beyond for his exemplary leadership qualities and level of perseverance. During his talk that evening, he told us about a time, after much success in business, when he looked into a mirror and asked himself a direct question: “Am I somebody that I would want to meet?” His question really made me think. Why would I want to meet myself? What character traits do I have that would make me want to get to know me better?

Can you pinpoint the precise instance a character trait became a trademark of who you are? Sometimes we have a crucible moment that shapes our character. Mr. Wexner’s story was one of learning about honesty from his father. Hearing his story reminded me of an event from my younger days which I hadn’t thought about in a long time. One of my crucible moments, much like Mr. Wexner’s, helped shaped my future leadership tenets and beliefs.

I was 12 years old when I and several friends shoplifted from the local convenience store. As fate would have it, I ended up getting caught by the shopkeeper, who in turn called the police. The shopkeeper called my parents, too, and my mom was the one who took the call. He and my mother were very good friends, but he didn’t realize who I was. When he understood the situation better, the manager felt terrible that he called the police. Right when it looked like I might not have to deal with the long arm of the law, my mom encouraged him to stay the course and let the police come because, as she put it, “My son needs to learn a lesson.” This important lesson about honesty, albeit a painful and frightening experience, has stayed with me to this day. I credit my parents, the shopkeeper and the police officer for instilling this trait in me.

What about you? What crucible moment(s) have shaped you up to this point? Are you someone you would like to meet? If not, you may be motivated by this sage advice from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”