Each year after attending the Veterinary Leadership Experience, I walk away with a fresh perspective on how I can be a better leader and how I can give back to others by helping improve their leadership skills. This year was no different. My take-home message for 2012 focused on the small things I can do to help others that might have a significant impact in the big picture. This can also be seen in another way: I took time to reflect upon the people who had, through a seemingly small gesture on their part, impacted the course of my life.
I have been fortunate to have many strong role models in the field of leadership, and I am forever grateful for these influences. These individuals have been recognized through thank-you letters, awards, and conversation, and have shaped the person I am today. Based on my VLE moments this year, I took time to reflect upon the smaller yet still amazingly powerful interactions I have had with others.
During my initial week as an intern at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., I had to take the plunge and perform my first euthanasia. I will never forget the dog’s name, his breed, or his temperament. His owner, even while making one of the most difficult decisions of her life, showed poise and courage that I can only hope to emulate in my life. I confessed that this was my first euthanasia, and she took my shaking hand and reassured me we would get through this together. I think we both found peace in my candor as we shared this difficult experience. I later discovered that my client was a prominent Washingtonian when I received a note on her company letterhead. This interaction taught me the importance of patience, graciousness, and goodwill, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to thank her in the sympathy card I subsequently composed for her family.
Not all of us have the opportunity to express gratitude for these smaller gestures. I am challenging myself to take the time to acknowledge these actions of others who have impacted my life. I also strive to be a person who serves in this capacity for others—through being a positive entity and being the person my dog thinks I am (loyal, exciting, and a provider). By keeping this in my mind during my daily interactions, I hope to broaden my wake and continue to influence others while taking a moment to say ‘thank you’ to those who have made a difference to me.