Years ago when I first got onto Facebook, I started playing one of their multiple versions of Scrabble. I met a friendly young lady and we not only started playing each other multiple times, but we started having pretty good conversations on a multitude of topics.


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At some point she told me that she had cancer and was trying some alternative treatments to overcome it. Unfortunately, they didn’t work and she ended up in hospice… which she never recovered from. I remember being pretty sad about it, even though I never met her in person. I also knew about the pain she’d been in, so when she passed away I realized that she was no longer in pain. It’s hard to see that as being a good thing… but it was.

After I heard from another friend of mine that her mother’s had an accident and might not survive it, I thought back to that older time and realized that I had come into her life on a fluke yet, in my own way, I offered her something she wasn’t getting anywhere else. I know that because she told me so.

Quite often, when we find out someone has a critical disease, that becomes the only topic of conversation they have… and it’s not usually because the person with the disease wants to talk about it. Instead of doing that, I kidded around with her, picked on her in fun and answered any question she asked me. I asked about her life but never anything related to cancer. She appreciated that more than anything else, even if we still had to address the situation here and there.

One day, she wrote me and thanked me for treating her as a normal person, and for taking the time to teach her things that no one else would because they didn’t think she was going to be around long enough to use any of it. I never thought about treating her any different at the time, but after she passed I thought about it a bit more. I realized that if she’d been a close family member or a long time friends that I saw often that my reactions might be different. I might be sadder, and I might want to talk about it more. In our case, I was her “reason for the season”, if you know what I mean.

You’re probably asking “what does this have to do with leadership”? It has a lot to do with leadership.

Every day we deal with people who have things going on in their lives, not always good things. Most of the time, if we’re working with each other, the leader might have to make it all about the job, the business. Yet, there are times when a true leader has to recognize that it’s not always about them or their interests. Sometimes, it really is about other people, their employees or peers, their customers and their families.

True leaders will recognize that. True leaders also will recognize that, even when it is about the business, as the same time it’s about the employees. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, but fairness has different degrees at different times and in different situations.

It’s amazing that I thought of her when I heard from my friend. I missed her a lot, but it’s been 10 years since she passed and she popped into my mind. I’m glad I was the one who popped into her life to help give her what she needed at that time.

None of us knows when we’re going to step into that role, but it does happen to all of us at some points in our lives. Sometimes it’s when we’re in a leadership position. Regardless of how it happens and the circumstances that brings you into it, will you be ready to step up when it’s your time?
 

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