“To remember where you come from is part of where you are going.” Anthony Burgess
Armed with a little information from a second cousin in New York, plus anything we could glean from ancestry.com, my husband and I set out this summer to trace his Greek heritage and, hopefully, discover the birthplace of his grandparents. We had been told that there were three cafes in the small village of Ihalia, and a distant cousin owned one of them. We struck gold at cafe number three when we met a lovely young lady adept at using Google translator. Within a short time, we found ourselves chatting with a taxi driver friend of hers – a guy who knew a guy.
He asked us to follow him and we did. He led us outside the town, over the old bridge mentioned by the New York cousin, and up a dirt road with three stone houses. My husband was drawn to the dirt road. He knew. The three stone homes were all abandoned but still standing strong. With his cousin on FaceTime, my husband walked the dirt road and confirmed our find – this was his grandmother’s childhood home, built by her father and nearly destroyed in an earthquake several decades ago.
Walking out of the path, we notice our taxi driver friend talking animatedly with a gentleman outside a modern-looking house across the street. Crossing the street, we were introduced to my husband’s cousin. FAMILY! Our new cousin was the grandson of my husband’s great uncle, and he was just as excited as we were to discover more family.
This excitement grew when our new cousin brought out several large sheets of paper on which were written something that looked like an organizational chart. This cousin had been working on the family tree for the last two years, filling in what he could and leaving blanks where he had no information. Nick’s grandmother’s name was written in pencil on the line with her siblings. There was nothing written under her name – blanks. It was surreal to watch Nick work with his new found relative to add his father’s name, his aunts’ and uncles’ names, and then his own name to the Greek family tree.
This is a great story, but what does it have to do with leadership?
Our past is what made us who we are today. There is a theory in teaching called the Constructivist Theory that states learning occurs by building upon one’s experiences. We construct our knowledge from each of our experiences, and these experiences build together to create understanding. In other words, all of the jobs we’ve had and all of the roles we’ve played will figure into the leader we become. They all help to construct our knowledge of people, of work, and of leadership.
Let this story be a reminder – Never forget where you’ve come from. Remember, …
- the jobs you’ve had along the way from your first job at the ice cream shop to your biggest leadership role
- the work culture that made you feel alive and helped you thrive
- the leader who saw something special in you and pushed you just a bit further than you thought you could go
You are constructing your learning about leadership, building your understanding of leadership.
As you lead others, remember your leadership heritage impacts them too. They are constructing their own leadership learning and writing their own leadership stories. You play the leading role in your own leadership story, but you also play a supporting role in someone else’s story. Let your leadership heritage write a beautiful story for both you and those who follow you.