A couple of summers ago, my family and I spent some time in Boston, a city we truly love.
As eager tourists, one of the areas of the city we explored was the Freedom Trail – a 2.5-mile, red brick-lined path guides you through 16 historically significant events from the American Revolution.
Along the trail are ground markers that highlight key events, graveyards, churches, meetinghouses and museums. They’re all connected to the efforts of American colonists to gain independence from Great Britain.
As I went from point to point, the rich history of the American Revolution came to life for me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. By the end, I understood American culture in a new and more meaningful way.
As leaders, we don’t often realize that we have our own version of the Freedom Trail. It’s a series of personal markers that tell our own leadership history. These are the stories that reveal to us and to other people the essence of our leadership accomplishments.
For example, one of my clients, an accomplished CEO, shared with me stories of his childhood growing up in rural England. He was from a poor family and, when he attended private school, was tormented by his classmates.
At the age of eight, he shared how he had already firmly decided he was not going to be poor when he grew up. Everything he accomplished later in life began at this initial marker, which highlighted his desire to escape the poverty of his childhood.
When I asked him if he had ever shared that story with the people he led, he shook his head. Only his closest colleagues knew of his history.
I’ve thought this unfortunate because an important lesson I’ve learned is that the people you lead really want to learn about your personal leadership story.
Every time I work with a leader at an event where their employees have gathered, I encourage them to share a little bit about their history. Some are excited to do so. Others are hesitant, uncertain of it how it will affect the way they are perceived by their employees.
For those who have the courage to share their stories, I find it makes them more human to their employees, which leads to a deeper and more meaningful employer-employee relationship. This is the connection that great leaders have with their employees, the bond that produces greater commitment and effort.
If you’re wondering how to share your own personal leadership story, the first step is to follow the example of the Freedom Trail in Boston and identify the key markers in your own history – the events that shaped who you are as a leader.
The second step is to share that story. You will find that your employees will connect with you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
So, as you enter the 4th of July weekend, take a moment and reflect on this week’s gut check question: are you ready and able to share you leadership story with those you lead?