He was short, he was stocky, he was a police officer. And, something he said really intrigued me. His name was Jamie Cheatem, and he worked on the campus where my sons went to college.
Here’s what he said about his role as a police officer on a college campus: “My philosophy is that all around the perimeter of the campus are invisible signs that say one thing—Enter to learn, exit to lead.”
Yes, he was a police officer, but in his mind his role as a police officer for Loyola University Maryland was to teach the students to be leaders. For him, whenever he’s interacting with students, it’s not just about law and order. It’s about leadership.
This philosophy appealed to me for 3 reasons.
First Reason: I believe that teaching leadership is an essential part of exercising leadership.
Jamie sees teaching leadership as part of his job as a campus police officer. He also saw it as part of his job working for a big city police department prior to working at Loyola University Maryland.
And one of the most important things we can teach is leadership. Whether you’re teaching it to your children, your employees, your customers. Whether you’re the CEO, a VP, or an employee working on the assembly line. Whether you’re in a corporation, a non-profit, or a school.
Even if you’re a cop on a college campus in Baltimore. (Maybe especially as a cop on a college campus!) Your job is to teach others to be effective leaders.
Second Reason: Teaching others to be effective leaders is a noble purpose, and therefore it contributes to your Noble Purpose. Whatever that purpose might be, it’s more noble because you’re teaching leadership.
Third Reason: I believe that most, if not all, leadership principles, are NOT just about work. These principles apply just as much to our lives outside of work.
Leadership principles apply wherever you find yourself when you’re not working: Your family relationships; your neighborhood; your religious organization; your civic group; your bowling league, or other hobby.
Wherever you find yourself dealing with other people, you have the opportunity to exercise the many different aspects of leadership. Building trust, motivating others, leading by example, communicating clearly and forcefully, having a clear sense of your purpose, vision, and values.
They’re not just for the workplace.
One of the great things about leadership is that the non-workplace environment affords us the opportunity to practice all of these leadership principles, and try out new leadership ideas.
Then, when we try them out “for real” in the workplace, we know what we’re doing, and we’re more proficient at displaying and exercising leadership.
Unique Perspective—Others Are Always Watching: Officer Cheatem realized that leadership is an important skill for college students to learn. I share his belief.
The great thing about the college campus is that although there may not be courses in leadership, everyone there should be teaching leadership, because today’s college students are tomorrow’s leaders. And the best way to teach leadership is by example.
And if you are in a leadership position at work, you must remember that the employees are always watching. Everything you do, they’re watching, trying to decide if you’re trustworthy, if you walk your talk.
Whether you like it or not, you’re teaching, and the subject you’re teaching is leadership.
Stealing a page from Officer Cheatem, let me say this: Your sphere of influence has invisible signs that say, “Enter to learn. Exit to lead.”
What About You? When people enter your sphere of influence, what leadership lessons are you teaching? By watching your behavior, what lessons are your “students” learning?