One of the things I love most about leadership is that it’s a subject that you can often learn more about from a random interaction in a coffee shop as you can from reading 100 different books on the topic. Here’s what I mean…
It was the last semester of my senior year of college. I was sitting at Fido, a local Nashville coffee shop, trying to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel known as graduation. Between studying for finals, writing papers, and finishing up my internship, I was also trying to find a job.
As I sat there typing away at my computer, I noticed a girl sitting across from me constantly looking up. At first I thought it was just because I was typing too violently or looked stressed, but the more I looked up, the more I noticed her consistent glances.
Did I have something on my face? Did I know her but not recognize her? I couldn’t figure it out.
After about 20 minutes, she stood up and started packing her things. As she was leaving, she stopped beside my table. After introducing herself, she explained how she liked to do quick drawings of people whenever she worked at coffee shops. As she left, she laid down a piece of paper on the table.
It was exactly the encouragement I needed. In the midst of all the stress, I was inspired. In my struggle for self-confidence, I was reminded to stop and trust myself. I was given a glimpse of hope from someone I didn’t even know.
I still have that piece of paper hanging in my office today and I often look at it whenever I start to think I’m not capable of accomplishing a project of goal.
Two Leadership Lessons from the Artist in the Coffee Shop
So what does this story have to do with leadership, especially when it comes to applying it across generations? Here are two lessons I learned from the experience:
1 – Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.
This is something we all need to be reminded of from time to time, but it’s especially true for Millennials. In those times when we might feel overwhelmed and under-qualified, it’s important to trust ourselves and remember that those feelings of fear and growth are indicators that we’re headed in the right direction.
2 – Leaders make “art” for others.
Sometimes we’re in a position where we need to be reminded to trust ourselves. Other times, we’re in the position where we are the ones reminding other people. As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is to encourage those in our sphere of influence. That could be your boss, your coworker, your intern, or the person sitting across from you in the coffee shop. We may never truly see the impact we make, but we also know that giving encouragement often does as much for the giver as it does for the receiver.
I will probably never meet the girl in the coffee shop, but I’ll never forget the lessons she taught me about leadership.