I know a lot of leaders who want to make a difference. Most want to create a legacy, leave a mark, or know that what they do as leaders makes the company and its people better for having been there. There are two ways to go about this: with purpose and intent, or accidentally by default. Either way can be dramatic, and perhaps the best way to think about this is to know that you want to capitalize on both ways of creating a lasting impression: one by identifying an outcome and lining up your actions, behaviors and decisions to lead to it, and the other by knowing that things will happen without your anticipating them, and how you respond will also be part of your legacy. Regardless, you will be leaving a mark on the organization, your team, and the individuals who follow you.
A couple years ago, I was flying from Vail, Colorado, to JFK in New York. I had come from two days of perfect skiing and was arriving to attend the Million Dollar Consulting Mentor Hall of Fame meeting, an annual event hosted by Alan Weiss for the creme de la creme in his community. I was looking forward to my room in the Ritz Carlton, Battery Park, facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and to the discussions and learning that would take place all week.
Perhaps I was distracted by the upcoming events? Maybe my legs were wobbly from skiing? Perhaps I need to wear better shoes when traveling? Who knows? All I know is that in a split second, near the baggage carousel, I slipped, and fell sprawling near a family of four waiting for their luggage to drop out of the conveyor.
I made a quick recovery—one of those embarrassing moments where you really wish no one would notice, but of course they do because they rush over to you and everyone’s asking if you’re okay, brushing off your trousers, righting your disheveled coat. I made some absurd pronouncement about what a wake-up after a long flight while onlookers gazed nervously in my direction. My nose hurt and my lip was starting to swell . . . I was anticipating a black eye for the big birthday party coming up on Saturday night. I stood there, trembling a little, waiting for my bag, the driver’s sideway glance suggesting that he hoped we could make it out to the car without anymore fanfare.
That’s when I noticed it—on the waxed, shiny floor behind me where I’d actually fallen–a lipstick smudge. I had, indeed, left my mark on the floor in a soft shade of pale pink from Bobbie Brown. No wonder my lip was swelling—my face had hit the floor! I began laughing hysterically. Not a little giggle or twitter, but an actual belly laugh, out loud, in front of everyone. It wasn’t the mark I had intended to leave on NY that week, that’s for sure, but what I know for certain is that sometimes we’ll fall on our faces, and the next thing to do is get up and dust off, and after that, laughing helps.
These days, I wear rubber soles.