Leading with tough love


Imagine you’re on a stage, as this boy was over the weekend.  You’re 14 and generally think the whole world is watching you, and this time you’re almost right.  There are 400 men and women in camouflage fatigues, all officers in the Michigan National Guard, in an enormous conference room at a university.  You’re up there with your Sergeant and Big Brother, Jared, and the governor’s husband has asked you what it’s like having him as your mentor.  You hear your voice amplified across the whole room as you say, “I really like him a lot, and we’re really tight . . . although we’ve had our moments.”  The governor’s husband asks you if you could share one of those tough moments, and you are hugely relieved when your big brother takes over and answers that question.

Jared offers the moment when his little brother was mad at him, when Jared explained that goofing around in school might seem like fun now, but making the choice to goof around wouldn’t seem real great when he had to repeat a year in school.  Furthermore, Jared explained that his little brother didn’t like the fact that Jared was talking to his mother.  That was not cool.  Jared told the crowd – as he had told Jared – that he appreciated how his little brother didn’t like him talking to the boy’s mom, but that both adults cared about him and would keep talking together for his benefit.

I told Jennifer about this powerful bond between the sergeant and his little.  She had been in Chicago the day before, visiting two super-high performing city schools.  And she related that the school reflected the same thing:  it’s critical to care enough to set high standards and hold people to them.  She told me how when she asked a couple kids what made this school special, they both said that it was the fact that people really cared whether they succeeded, and that the school had rules and enforced them which made it a safe and excellent place to learn.

So, this might be a good time of year to not be afraid to let your “little brother,” your son or daughter, or one of your employees know how much you care about them, how much you want them to succeed, and that you will keep being honest with them and setting high standards so that they can reach their best.  Maybe, too, a time to become a mentor, an awesome way to

Lead with your best self!