Thank You Notes to Leaders

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the role of leadership.

Since a young age, in any group context, my attention has always flowed just as much to group and leadership dynamics, as it has to the content and purpose of our time together. In fact, unless the leadership was particularly effective, most of my attention would turn to “how can the incredible capacity in this group be more present in this room, in our work, and in what we can learn and create together?” I’ve always felt like I could somehow “see” so many of the unique, and often overwhelming internal and external challenges and opportunities of the group, through the leader's eyes. From evaluating leadership as a kindergartener (e.g. studying the effectiveness and fairness of candy incentives our teacher utilized) and within every classroom thereafter, to carefully observing the strategies and impact of every boss I’ve ever worked with, to taking fastidious notes on the technique, timing and results of any facilitated event I ever attend, to finally orienting my entire career around leadership, organization development, and anything that contributes to the actualized capacity of individuals and groups - I am a constant student of leadership with endless empathy, love and respect for the role.

What an incredible, challenging and worthy opportunity the privilege of leadership can be! Even outside of my professional work, I spend my free time reading about everything that has to do with capacity-actualizing systems and leadership. My favorite moments at parties are those when I connect with people about the ways they contribute their best selves to their world - and what systems, opportunities, leadership, and mindsets contribute most to that best self showing up. No matter where I am, in a movie, out in nature, laughing with children, my inquiry around leadership is constant. (I did say I was obsessed.)

And beyond the inquiry, what brings me inexplicable joy, is the experience of outstanding leadership. You know, the kind of leadership that transforms who you are, and what you thought was possible. The kind of leadership where people make leadership theory real, vs. preach it. The kind of leadership that expands one’s sense of what contribution can look like and make possible in the world. When this happens, I am left so full of awe, humility, joy and gratitude that I can’t help but share it. Anyone who has worked with me knows this… the gratitude via thank you notes, emails, shout-outs, phone calls, etc. flows abundantly from me. And, i realize, there’s a sharing opportunity for other leaders, in these thank-you’s that I have missed.

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is believing that showing up as the authentic leader that we know we are - will work. Like, actually work, in the real world. As leaders, we may read, or even really “get” what makes for great leadership… but to risk to try it, to see it work, to learn through the trying, to witness it happen in our real lives… that is a different story - and one we don’t get to see as much as we’d like.

Well I’d like to contribute to that story. I see tremendous leadership a lot. I’m lucky that way. And when I thank leaders, I point out what makes their leadership extraordinary. And I offer examples of real impact, vs. speak in the abstract. This blog is an effort to make those thank you’s public so that the real-life stories, examples and impact of great leaders become more visible, tangible, and common. I mean, why not? I was going to write these thank you notes anyhow…

So, dear leaders: Thank you. YOU LEADERS MATTER SO MUCH. It takes guts to show up and lead, even when you don’t know if you can show up the way you intend.

So, here’s to you, those of you who show up to help unlock the vastness of capacity in groups, the possibility in the world - you move me to tears. And you move the world. Thank you.

Julie Hankes