Super Leaders Open Doors

Great leaders open doors for other leaders. Great leaders also know when to knock. Be a door opener. Learn how to knock.

Who’s opened doors for you? What have you done to open doors for others?

Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Who Open Doors, is collecting stories of leaders who have opened doors, or created opportunities for others. Today, I share my story of Dr. Henry Sims, who opened a door that changed the course of my career.

I invite you to recognize a leader who opened a door for you in the comments. This post will be included in Bill’s Leadership Open Door Fest on August 13th.

A SuperLeadership- Open Doors Story

When I was a young communications graduate student at the University of Maryland, I met the best door opener of my career. I was working on a research project around empowering leadership. I noticed that nearly everyone I was reading was citing the same guy, Dr. Henry Sims.  Since this was before the days you could google-up answers in an instant, I went to the library and found one of his books, SuperLeadership, Leading Others to Lead Themselves.

Dr. Henry SimsI flipped to the back page to read about the authors. I had to laugh. Dr. Sims taught across campus at the business school. I read the book in one sitting, picked up the book and my recent writing, ran across campus and knocked on his door. He stopped what he was doing and we talked for several hours, he practiced everything he had written about.

He led me to lead myself.

He asked provocative questions and made me think. He challenged me to consider my direction. Not just in my research, but in my career.

I left my paper with him for comment.

When I came back the next week, he said, “I think I can help you publish this (which we did)” and the next several hours of in-depth discussion led me to understand that what I really wanted to do was to be working in organizations, not studying them and that what I needed most was not an academic advisor, but a contact.

Then he began opening doors. The next week he took me to lunch with a director doing leadership work in the company I have worked for ever since.

Hank has remained my mentor and my friend. When I get stuck, I knock. He always has questions, ideas, and contacts (mostly other folks for whom he’s opened doors). I knocked just last month.

I asked Hank why he opens doors for students and others (ironically, I never did take a class from him).
In retrospect, the best part of my academic career has been the influence and support I have been able to provide to others. I have tried to act and behave as a “SuperLeader.”

The benefits of knocking is that some SuperLeader may open a door. Knock. Answer. Lead.

Another Favorite Book by Hank Sims: Business Without Bosses: How Self Managed Teams are Building High Performance Companies

*Photo Dr. Henry Sims, Super Leader, Door Opener

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

26 Comments

  1. Karin- a moving, enriching and exemplary post.
    They say “if you don’t ask then you get no answer”.
    Having read this great post I say:
    “If you don’t knock then you shall not enter”.
    Knocking is not only on physical doors. Your post knocked on my heart and it entered.

  2. Every time I meet someone, my intention is how can I help this person, even in the smallest way.

    I’m not one to toot my own horn. I don’t care for the spot light. Though I know how important it is to give back. The more you give the more you get. It’s that simple.

    It’s rare when I reach out to someone and they reach back without an agenda.

    Glad to say it happened this past week.

    • Steve, I do believe in the karma you describe. I am sad to hear that some of your knocking is answered conditionally. I hate that. Keep knocking, I am often overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers and the strength of loose ties. You are extremely generous with your time and ideas. I enjoy that so much about you.

  3. In education there are texts that are used to teach students generalized ways of expression. Those are called mentor texts. Your story is a mentor text, a story that shows one way of being a leader. Sims was not only available, he invested, he cared. It makes me stop and think, how am I leading? Am I opening doors? Am I invested? or am I at the knocking stage? Of course, the roles can be dynamic. One moment I might be knocking and the next moment I might be opening. Another lesson, in my opinion, is that this is not a zero sum game. If I receive seven handfulls of help, I am able to pass on eight or ten handfulls. Why? Because I am no longer the same person. I can’t think of a concrete example right now, but my point is that at the knocking stage, when I am knocking, I am able to receive help to a certain level. But after growth, when someone later knocks on my door, I am able to pass on that level plus more. Your story is a great example that we are all learners and we should all strive to be teachers. My gift tomorrow is greater because of your gift today.

    • Davis- you moved me with the depth of your comment. I like your probing statement “Why? Because I am no longer the same person”. That is a key point. By giving genuinely, we raise our bar to a higher level, As we do, we are expected to even give more. The new enriched persons have new and stronger waves of giving and expecting less. But we get something in return, the satisfaction of making others stronger and, hopefully happier. The more you press down the water under you, the more water shall push you up.
      Thanks David for a great comment that pushed me up. I hope I shall give more to others.

  4. David, What a FANTASTIC comment! Thanks so much. I love the momentum you describe. I think it’s so important for us all to be both knockers and door openers as much as we can, and even a little more.

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  6. As I read your post for today, I began to ask myself who has been a door opener for me? At my current position, I am not a manager, I am an administrative assistant. I have been a manager in a couple of positions at other jobs. I changed careers after having my first child, who is now a toddler. 🙂 With that said, I could have come into this position and just done “the job,” which would be totally against who am I at this point in my life. I want to make a difference and I seek opportunities and actually fight for ways to change for the better… often. Its what I love, its who I am. In fact, I was inspired from your ‘Christmas in July’ post the other day which led into a full blown all staff event that I was able to initiate to create smiles at the beginning of a work day! I followed up by sharing your post and challenged our large team by asking what will they do now? (You are a door opener!) The reason I was able to know about your blog, read your posts, get creative, boost morale, initiate change is due to one of the leaders I currently work for. He is constantly encouraging me and pushing me to do what I do best and not shy away from it. He offers me opportunities to shine. He is a man of integrity, one who cares deeply for his team and wants to see others grow and do what they do best! I think you become a true leader when you can genuinely share with others and lead others into growth and success. It is an honor to work with him and I count it a true privilege!

    • Dawn, WOW!!! I am so excited that you followed up with action on the Christmas in July Post. for those that missed it http://letsgrowleaders.com/2013/07/25/christmas-in-july/

      That sounds fantastic. What a beautiful example of one thing leading to another. I am glad you are making all you can of your current role. Title are just titles, leaders see and fill needs. Sounds like you are doing that very well. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Karin! I really appreciate your encouragement and you being willing to share with others all about great leadership!

  7. Karin – you are amazing. Once again you have grasped a very important principle: “Leaders open doors” and made it absolutely vivid. Bravo.

    Leaders essentially do these four things: Connect, influence, practice strategic visioning, and execute (Read more in Rath, Strengthfinders 2.0). Your essay describes a powerful dynamic related to first leadership activity.

    Keep it up!

    • Steve, actually Bill Treasurer is the open doors guy, he’s the one who asked us to collect stories…. I love your addition Connect, Influence, VIsion and Execute. YES! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Karin
    Wow, just what I needed to start my Monday morning, thank you for this inspiring post.
    About 10 years ago a leader asked if I was being the best version of me and if not what could I do to get there. That powerful question opened a door a tiny bit then and over a period of time pushed me to discover my purpose. Today as a Coach I focus on helping people discover their true potential and its incredibly fulfilling. Believing in someone more than they themselves do is a good way to open doors and change lives.

  9. Great post Karin. I had a mentor who opened lots of doors for me when I began my practice in Charlotte. I made sure he knew how grateful I was for his assistance every year. One day he told me “You can pay me back by making sure you do the same for someone else.” That has stuck with me to this day.

  10. Karin and Everyone,

    I LOVE reading your stories about Open-door Leaders! Isn’t it wonderful what a profound and positive impact a leader can have on us just by giving us a chance to prove ourselves to ourselves?

    When I wrote Leaders Open Doors I decided that the book should live its own message and “open doors’ for others. To do that, 100% of the royalties from the book are being donated to programs that support children with special needs. Learn more at http://www.leadersopendoors.com.

    Please continue to share your stories about Open-door Leaders! I love reading them!

    THANKS everyone! And SUPER BIG THANKS to Karin!!!

  11. Fantastic post Karin. I have been fortunate to be blessed with some fantastic mentors who taught me everything I know. The best thing they ever taught me is how to lead,lead effectively, and teach others to lead the same way.

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