3 min read

The power of great leadership

The power of great leadership
Photo by Trevor Michael / Unsplash

It was the sweltering summer of 2011, and there I was, sweating bullets in the unforgiving heat of Fort "Who-the-Hell-Cares," Texas. Decked out in long sleeves, pants, body armor, a helmet that felt like a sauna on my head, and lugging around a 60-pound pack as if it was my new best friend. My unit was gearing up for Afghanistan, getting whipped into shape for the impending deployment. And then there's me, somehow off the roster to deploy. Maybe it was the universe's way of saying, "Not yet, kid," since I was the new guy, freshly transferred and barely acquainted with anyone.

Part of me was sighing in relief. Marching into the unknown with strangers wasn't exactly the dream. But then there was Lieutenant Menchaca. The guy was different. An ex-grunt turned officer who didn't lose his soul in the transition. He was the real deal, someone who hadn't forgotten what it was like to be in the trenches. He had this knack for making everyone feel seen, including me.

One day, he pulls me aside, "Alex, I know you're not on the list, but damn, it'd ease my mind to have you with us." That hit deep. Never had I felt so valued, so indispensable. It wasn't a command; it was respect, a genuine acknowledgment of my worth to the team. I didn't hesitate. I said yes. That moment with Menchaca wasn't just memorable; it was defining. He showed me what true leadership looked like—leading by example, offering unwavering support, and empowering others to see their own worth. That "yes" wasn't just agreement; it was a leap into becoming part of something bigger, something meaningful. Inspired? Hell, I was ready to conquer the world.


Transitioning from the battlefield to the boardroom, it's clear that not all of us will stand at the crossroads of such life-altering decisions as volunteering for life in a combat zone. Yet, in the vast narrative of our professional lives, true heroes often emerge in the guise of exceptional managers. Uncovering one in the corporate wilderness is akin to discovering a vein of gold—precious and rare. These aren't mere overseers of our daily grind; they're the Gandalfs to our Frodos, illuminating our path with sage advice and leading us through the murky woods of our careers with a wisdom that borders on the mystical.

I've weathered storms in jobs that seemed less than perfect purely because of the captains at the helm. Their belief in me anchored my resolve, transforming mundane tasks into missions I was proud to undertake.

The best managers do more than delegate tasks; they light the path ahead. They make the unbearable bearable, turning the workplace into a garden where confidence blooms from the seeds of their encouragement and guidance. These managers recognize the delicate balance between professional rigor and personal well-being, crafting an environment where you're surviving and thriving.

When I'm managing people, I often tell them I stick up for them in 5 different ways:

  1. I stuck up for you because you were right.
  2. I stuck up for you because you were right but technically wrong.
  3. I stuck up for you because you were wrong but technically right.
  4. I stuck up for you because you were wrong, but it was my job to catch it.
  5. I stuck up for you because even though you were wrong, I doubt you'll make that exact mistake again.

1 and 4 are the most common by far. That's leading with empathy. That's what I would want. What you would want. But let's not sugarcoat it—I've also seen the other side. Leaders who couldn't spare a glance during one-on-ones, their attention forever hostage to the next email or text. That's if they show up. These experiences, though disheartening, only highlighted the stark difference a great leader makes.

For those lucky enough to have such a mentor in their corner, cherish them. Their impact stretches far beyond the confines of office walls. And for those still searching, don't lose hope. The right leader can turn the tide, transforming even the most daunting challenges into stepping stones toward greatness.


And if you're at a crossroads, feeling the absence of such a leader, or simply seeking to elevate your game, I'm here to bridge that gap. Consider me your coach, ready to arm you with the strategies, insight, and support to navigate your life and career's complexities.

If you're interested in a free coaching call to see what it's all about, you can sign up here. We'll chat about your life, your goals, your fears, and I'll offer up some no-strings-attached advice.