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Leadership Moment with Dr. Betsy Charles

I love words. I think they matter. A lot.

As such, I subscribe to a daily email called “A.Word.A.Day.” While I love all the new words I am exposed to on a daily basis, my favorite part of the email is at the very bottom of the message where the author of the email includes a “Thought of the Day” from someone who has a birthday on the day the email is sent. It has exposed me to all kinds of interesting thinkers, some modern day folks, some people who lived a long, long time ago and several people in-between those two extremes.

I bring this up because a recent “Thought of the Day” has been on my mind for days, especially as it relates to effective leadership. It is a quote from Baltasar Gracian, a 17th century philosopher. He said this…

“When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.”

Isn’t that a cool thought? It first reminded me of why I think our programs are so effective- because this is our view of facilitation- guide on the side, not sage on the stage, who makes space for reflection about the possibilities. I then thought this sentence was a beautiful way to think about servant leadership, the model of leadership we espouse at the Veterinary Leadership Institute, putting those in our charge before ourselves. After I read the sentence a couple times, I quickly changed the word “counsel” to “lead” and then to “influence.” These words explain how to be an effective servant leader, one whose intention is inviting others into a growth mindset.

As high achieving veterinary professionals, we so often focus on what is wrong, how we could have done better, where we have fallen short. In other words, we are constantly thinking about all “the light [we are] unable to see” instead of the steps we could take to improve. We do that with ourselves, for sure, but I also think it leaks out into our interactions with others and how we show up as leaders. We can be critical, impatient, and unwilling to allow others to learn in their roles on our teams.

But what if we started to think about inviting ourselves and others to consider the possibilities? I think that is what Baltasar Gracian was getting at when he said what he said. Instead of being critical and pointing out all the flaws in those you lead, speak possibility into your people so they can become effective problem solvers on their own.

As you go through your day today, think about Baltasar Gracian’s words. Pay attention to the voice in your head and the messages you tell yourself. Are you inviting possibility and giving yourself grace or are you on critical overdrive? Then ask yourself those same questions as they pertain to those you lead.

Morgan See

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