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Leadership is Relationships

March 29, 2014

It’s only been three weeks that I have been in this leadership class, yet years of wisdom, experience, and knowledge have been passed on to me. Perhaps this six-week course is worth the $50,000 education ;).


This past week I had the opportunity to listen to one of the most humble, yet most successful female physicians in the nation’s capital, and I think, the country- she’s taken care of president’s families numerous times. As soon as she began talking in class, I felt a connection. Hailing from the Midwest, I felt the warmth and compassion that I grew up with in Ohio. Her story of moving to DC from a small Midwest town felt like she was telling me my own story. The stark differences in the regions, did not dissuade her passion for helping others. I feel the same.


She went on to say as her career as a physician evolved, she realized how jaded the medical profession can become over time. I’d venture to say it is not just in medicine, but in life in general. Often times, I feel people settle. Their zest and passion for life fade and they too slip into this autopilot state of what we call life, hardly living. She worked hard as a practicing physician and medical school professor to bring the passion back into the practice.


She emphasized the importance and necessity of working together to make change. She quoted, “there is no place for a pyramid when it comes to leadership.” This hit home as I am striving to learn more and grow as an aspiring leader in the fields of fitness & wellness. This new metaphor for leadership is the collective spokes on a wheel. It takes many spokes to make the wheel stay intact and move. Collaboration, open-minds, and progressive thinking are what will help true leadership succeed. “Numbers make a difference, we need to change the dialogue,” she said, “The core of leadership is really relationships.” That last quote really hit home, as I truly value relationships. Anyone that knows me will likely say I’ve never met a stranger.


The following day I worked a bench warming ceremony this past Friday night for a previous employee of the George Washington University (part of my graduate assistant duties). I didn’t know the man, but from the extent of the planning, the prominent names on the guest list, and the work put into the event, I knew he was someone special. I will never forget what he said that night. Forgive me for not remembering the quote directly but a summarization is below.


….There was one issue my mentor and I could never agree on. She told me I need to keep work and personal life separate, that I should not have friends at work. I believe there is no room for compartmentalization. My colleagues are my friends. Sure, there are sometimes I look back and have made mistakes, but as long as you keep a good head on, there is no reason why you cannot be friends with colleagues.


The most powerful part was yet to come. As the night was winding down (and as event staff we have to wait for everyone to clear before leaving) he walked over to me and said, “Now who are you? I’ve seen you here the whole time, but you are the only person I don’t know.” I (yes ME) was speechless! How in the heck did this man who had past university presidents show up to this event, notice me in a room?! I introduced myself and we chatted for a few, and as we were wrapping up, he said, “we will talk again soon.”


I feel like this week’s message made full circle, leadership is about relationships. Or as the doctor from Thursday’s class said: “It’s about connecting, harnessing, and learning from each other.”


What does leadership mean to you? Tweet me your thoughts @kelleyvargo


Have a great week,



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