One Mentor, One Mirror, and One Incredible Leadership Lesson

One Mentor

Yes it’s true, even the best leaders can get off track. I know many who’ve admitted to losing sight of the mission, goals, vision, and perhaps even their purpose. It’s not pretty when someone who seemed to have it all together one day, can be so out of sorts the next. I know, because it happened to me almost two decades ago. Fortunately, I had a mentor who stepped in and got me headed in the right direction.

Father Victor Roberts was the Dean of Academic Affairs at St. Gregory’s University when I arrived to coach soccer. Although he and I made an odd couple, we became fast friends and he quickly “adopted” the team. He came to almost every practice, meeting, and game whether home or away. Although he had free reign to say whatever was on his mind, he spent most of his time listening—which created a good balance, because I rarely shut up.

One day during practice, I leaned over and asked if he noticed the behavior and attitude of our captain. He quickly put it back in my lap and asked, “What do you see?” I told him that from what I could tell, he seemed to be coasting and not giving a full effort. He grinned, “Now, tell me what you think he sees in you.” I sat puzzled for a second, but then began to watch the player again and after a few seconds…it dawned on me. My Captain was only reflecting what I had recently been displaying. He continued:

“He’s reflecting you, and you are seeing that in him. Back and forth it will go, until you give him something different to see…and then in turn you will see something different in him. That’s the role of a leader. You must become aware, and then you must change. You learn this lesson, and then you’ll teach it to him.”

It’s been said, that you can’t love or hate something about another person, unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.The first time you meet, is the first moment you form an impression in your mind of that person. You decide very quickly what you like and don’t like, and your reactions to other people, are really just barometers for how you perceive yourself. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, our reactions to others say more about us than they do about them. We are usually drawn to those who are most like us and tend to dislike those who display those aspects of ourselves we don’t admire.

The “Mirror” lesson is what I and many other personal and professional coaches use on a daily basis. We hold a mirror up to others, and ask good questions, until they have a clear view of themself. By becoming aware, you have a chance to not only improve your own life, but also of those around you. For many years after seeing the movie REMEMBER THE TITANS, I used the line, “Attitude reflects leadership.” Now, I stick with one of my favorite quotes of all time by Ghandi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I hope you begin to find in others what you want, because that will probably mean you are displaying it to the world.

Duane Cummings
About the author: 

In 2010 Duane Cummings founded The Sensational Group, the parent company for Sensational Literature LLC and a host of other companies and partnerships.  He is currently the Chief Executive Officer at Leadercast and previously he was the Chief Operating Officer of EFS and the General Manager of the Oklahoma City Slickers professional soccer team.  Follow Duane on Twitter and LinkedIn.