Barbara Bush on Leadership

If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities. ~Barbara Bush

Remembering Barbara Bush and her quote about seeing people as potentials possessing strengths, reminded me of something I wrote three years ago inspired by Mark Batterson. I think Barbara Bush would enthusiastically support Batterson’s perspective.

Batterson said, “If you are in a position of leadership, engineering opportunities is part of your portfolio.  One well-timed compliment can open the door and let the future in.”

We could each look back on our own history and find that destiny left us clues. As Batterson says, “Architects built cities out of Legos. Saleswomen sold enough Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies to feed the country of Liechtenstein. Entrepreneurs cornered the lemonade stand market on their cul-de-sac. Entertainers owned the Eurhythmics in Guitar Hero. And teachers set up makeshift blackboards and lectured their stuffed animals.”

But it doesn’t end with our childhood, that’s only the beginning. In 2002, when working on my doctorate, I can recall two professors who, unbeknownst to each other, gave me the exact same compliment. That got my attention and I still refer back to that compliment to this day. I’ve redirected my career to follow their observation and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I’ll be eternally grateful to both of those individuals who took the extra 30 seconds to point out one of my strengths that I thought was commonplace.

When was the last time you gave someone a compliment about something they did really well? Can’t remember? Then it’s clearly been way too long if you consider yourself a leader.

Batterson tells us that “One nudge in the right direction can change a plotline for eternity. You don’t need to put undue pressure on yourself—don’t worry about missing opportunities or making mistakes.”  However, speaking for myself, from time to time I “think” a compliment in my head, but don’t say it out loud. That needs to change. When I think it, I need to say it!

How would your day look different if you went about it with the mindset that you were going to engineer opportunities? Lavishly bestowing compliments on those around you, assuming that now and then those compliments will be well-timed and let the future in.

Why wait?! In Barbara Bush’s honor, think of people as potentials possessing strengths. Be a leader who engineers opportunities and make today the day you open the door and let the future in for someone else. That they might thrive and grow to their capabilities.


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