You can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact up close.
— Howard G. Hendricks
I will never forget the night of April 8, 1974. I was glued to the TV set in our den at home anxiously waiting to see if history would be made. And sure enough, it was! The Atlanta Braves were hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hank Aaron took a fourth inning pitch from Al Downing and hit home run No. 715 to surpass the record previously held by Babe Ruth.
As a kid growing up playing Little League, Aaron was my idol. He was baseball royalty, and that night will forever be etched in my memory.
Fast forward to the early 1990s and I’m in Fulton County Stadium watching the warm-ups prior to a Braves game. I am on the far end of the first base dugout with a baseball in hand hoping for an autograph to add to my collection.
I was about to give up when I looked down toward the other end of the dugout where a crowd had swelled and cheers could be heard. Who could it be?
I began making my way toward the crowd to see what the excitement was all about. From the back of the crowd, I got my first glimpse of Aaron — and there he was, my baseball idol in the flesh.
With a freshly purchased baseball in hand, I pressed my way through the crowd to the railing and eagerly handed him my baseball. I stood in awe as I watched him autograph it. I even took a picture of him signing it just for posterity.
As a leader, you may never know or realize the impact that you have on other people. My leadership mentor, John Maxwell, said, “Leadership is influence,” and it’s true. You may never know the impact you have on others, which is why it’s so important to be mindful of it.
In my early years after college, I worked with a few bad leaders who taught me some leadership lessons I’ve carried with me to this day — like how not to treat people. My careful attention to that leadership lesson was borne out of a bad leadership example and it caused me to pledge to never be like that.
But beyond the good or bad examples that you will observe, think of the impact and opportunity you have to be an example to those around you.
Ask yourself the question, who’s in your impact zone? As the opening quote by Howard G. Hendricks says, “You can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact up close.” And this is your leadership challenge.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
• Who is going to be most impacted by my leadership?
• Will the impact of my leadership make them better leaders and better people?
• Am I more concerned about impressing people from a distance or impacting them up close?
I will never forget those 2 or 3 minutes of interaction with my baseball hero, Aaron. He was friendly and gracious. In those brief moments, he had no idea how special those moments were to me. But I knew. And in that brief time, he confirmed everything I thought of him as a boy.
Shannon Alder said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.” This is a powerful quote to ponder and a challenge for all leaders.
I don’t know who is in your impact zone, but let me leave you with this thought — don’t take it for granted. Do your best to be worthy of the privilege to lead.
©2021 Doug Dickerson
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