Retirement card messages offer clues of great leadership.


Face it: when somebody leaves for good, there's no reason to "butter up" the boss. Hence I was struck by the hand-scrawled sentiments on two huge retirement cards my close friend received last week.  He concluded almost two decades as the president and general manager of a hospitality organization and had wished to just quietly move on. His employees had other ideas. On and off during his last week, team members stopped by to talk and thank him for how he had led them. During his tenure, the operation had seen significant growth and increased levels of customer satisfaction. Although he would never share what words were spoken, he did let me see the cards. "Your door was always open for me." "You taught me more than I ever learned in school." "You let me express my ideas and try new things - even if they didn't work at first." "You created an atmosphere of fun and teamwork." "I feel like a great friend is walking out the door." "People told me I would be working for the greatest manager in this profession. I thought they'd be wrong. Nope - I was. You've always been there to support and guide and correct." "You helped my family when we needed it." Whether kitchen crew or maintenance, waiters or head chef, banquet captains or operations managers, the messages all spoke of an ability to listen, to be straight-forward, to be respectful as well as firm, to enjoy and to care. The leader didn't hide in an office, play favorites, or withhold information. He taught what he knew and also was willing to learn from others. What would your retirement cards say?

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