It Takes A Village

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
-Denzel Washington

Have you ever read about the coaching trees of some of the greatest coaches? 

I read Winning the NFL Way: Leadership Lessons from Football’s Top Head Coaches 15 years ago, and the two major takeaways from the book, for me, were:

  1. Invest in the leaders under you and risk them leaving. Don’t invest in them and guarantee they will leave.
  2. Our job as leaders isn’t to create followers but to build other leaders. 

And while NFL coaching trees are on display in the public eye, the concept applies to all leadership realms. When I read a bio of a particular leader, I am always curious about how they were developed. What job experiences did they have? Who did they work for?    

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the promotion of one of my first bosses in the Army, and long-time friend and mentor, now Major General Thomas J. Tickner. During the ceremony, MG Tickner highlighted some mentors who helped him along the way, including two teachers who “changed the trajectory of his life and career.” Going all the way back to his high school physics teacher, MG Tickner said that we may not have even gone to college without his influence  

Personally, my career in the A/E/C industry started with my last assignment on active duty, getting assigned as a young Captain working as a Resident Engineer with the Philadelphia District. The opportunity was given to me by LTC Gwen Baker, and eventually, I started working under then LTC Tom Tickner. He maximized my development by exposing me to all facets of USACE during my time at the Philly District. I found out yesterday that he had a similar position when he was a Major working on projects under then COL Mike Walsh. 

It takes a village. 

As leaders, we have the chance every day to mentor – through our example, our communications, our coaching and sometimes through tough love. Whether a coach of little league, a high school physics teacher, a leader on a project or in a company, we all have the responsibility to do our best to lead and mentor.  

With the Masters this weekend, this is a reminder that our job as leaders isn’t to be perfect but to always be working to reduce our handicaps every day. As people, parents, professionals, companies and as an industry.

BJ Kraemer, President