One of a leader’s greatest responsibilities is to shift the emphasis of work from “making a dollar” to “making a difference” in the lives of others. – Randy Ross
Back when I was 12 years old, I won a ticket to a Kansas City Royals baseball game by calling into a radio station contest as caller number 12. I was thrilled! After a great deal of convincing, my mother finally agreed to drop me off in Springfield, Missouri early in the morning on game day, about 14 miles away from my hometown of Ozark, in a shopping center parking lot where I would wait and take the 3.5 hour bus ride to Kansas City.
At this point in my life I had never been to a baseball game, so I had no idea what to expect. Just outside the stadium, the bus stopped at the Bannister Mall where all the passengers went in to eat at the Heritage Cafeteria. I had never been to a cafeteria and therefore, did not eat because I had no idea what the rules were, and really, I had no money anyways. For the next hour, I just kind of sat there, feeling very out of place, but also very excited about the game.
The sky was such a vibrant blue that day and the grass was so green it was glowing. When I got to the stadium I noticed a group of kids standing against the railing by the field. I went down to see why and realized that they were there to get autographs. Of course, I did not have a pen or anything for the players to sign, but still I continued to stand there. After a few minutes, an older gentleman walked up and started talking to the kids, one by one, along the fence.
When he got to me, he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I immediately answered that I would like to work here, for the Kansas City Royals. He replied, “Work here? Why don’t you just own the place?” I replied that I could never do that and in that moment, felt compelled to download my entire life story to him. He stopped me and asked me to wait in the second row of seats for him. I thought I was in trouble or that they had discovered I did not belong and were going to throw me out; instead he came off the field and sat down next to me in the stands. He said, “You could own this place. I was no richer than you and now I own this team. If I can, you can.”
The man talking to me in the stands that day was Ewing Kauffman, owner of the Kansas City Royals. Before he got up to leave, he yelled down on the field to Dennis Leonard, a dominating pitcher at that time, and asked him to sign a ball for me. Dennis tossed a ball to Mr. Kauffman who handed it to me, stood up, thanked me for coming and told me to enjoy the game.
Of course I still have that Dennis Leonard signed baseball, but more importantly, that experience was the first time I ever remember an adult being aspirational. It meant so much to have someone sit down and share that time with me, even if it was just a few minutes. It would have been just as easy for him to keep moving down the row of kids and not take that moment to impact my life, but Ewing Kauffman was clearly an amazing man that made a conscious decision to lift a kid up that day.
That moment had a huge impact on my leadership journey and has forever cast a deep sense of responsibility for me to do the same.
Question: Who has most impacted your leadership journey so far? What could you do before the end of the year to impact the life of an up-and-coming leader?