By far, the fondest memories I have of a leader was when working with a headmaster at a small private school in Vermont. The school was made up of around 30 really “quirky” students who didn’t fit the mold needed to be successful in a traditional public high school. You could say the same for most of the staff.
The staff was made up of individuals. We all excelled at very different things. The history teacher had this incredible knack for making huge projects come to fruition (for example, he started a pottery studio, a stained glass studio, created an apiary program, had the students help build a timber frame sugar shack and created a teaching sugaring operation staffed by students who taught local elementary students… the list goes on). The dorm staff were all kids at heart and played usually harder than the students. The science teacher had enormous empathy and could befriend even the most troubled student and help them through tough times. And it continues…
Everyone had their own special skill and it was recognized and exploited to its fullest to the benefit of the school and the individual. We all felt needed and that we were important to the success of the school, students, staff morale, and everything else that helped the school run smoothly.
I am sure the same diversity of talent exists in most organizations, but it is rare that you get to know your colleagues as well as we did, and to have your leader know you and trust you.
The biggest role the headmaster played was to know when to get out of our way. He rarely said no to any requests and trusted in our expertise. He was like a tailwind that would guide us every now and then if we had strayed too far, but mostly helped us get to where we knew we needed to go.