Meet Mary

It might be good to recap on Bill and Sidney from last week, but if they’re still fresh in your mind skip to 7 minutes in when I introduce “Mary”.


Mary is a fictional character who is not based entirely on one leader I know.  Instead I have taken the best traits of a number of leaders I have had the privilege to work with over a working life exceeding 40 years, leaders who I admire and who inspire me.

These leaders come in all shapes and sizes, leading at many different levels in a variety of organisations, or in voluntary endeavors or in families.  In all honesty I have also watched terrible leaders carefully over the years, some who have terrified me, learning as much from their bad traits as I do from those of the best leaders.

In all those experiences and observations the word that stands out is authentic.  Without exception the best leaders lead not through the position they hold but because of who they are.  They inspire and engage others, who in turn choose to follow them.  As we shall explore next week these leaders are low in ego and high in personal humility.  They are absolutely determined to succeed, but always through their people.  They want their people to thrive, to unlock their potential, and are absolutely committed to doing the right thing in the right way.

My fictional character is female, but as with Bill and Sidney there is no relevance to the gender.  I come across many men who lead like Mary.

I am anxious to reinforce a crucial point.  People tell me Mary must be perfect.  She absolutely is not.  Mary just strives to do her best every day, to learn from mistakes, to continually improve.  She knows she is far from the finished article.  It is this determination to do her best that drives her.  She is not over confident, indeed on occasions she has sleepless nights worrying if she is doing the right thing.  But the next day she refocuses and does everything she can to deliver.

There is nothing weak about Mary.  Despite sometimes lacking in confidence she is no soft touch.  Working for Mary is no easy ride.  She is a lovely person, kind, thoughtful and supportive, she wants her people to succeed.  But to make that happen she challenges her team, stretches them, takes them out of their comfort zone, want to give them freedom within a framework and holds them accountable.  It’s very rewarding to work for Mary, but expect to be pushed.

She never ducks a difficult conversation.  Unlike Bill she might not enjoy them, but unlike Sidney she never avoids them.  Once more she focuses on doing the right thing in the right way.

Please remember that Mary can and does exist in all different roles in every level in organisations.  You may be at the beginning of your conservation career but you absolutely have the ability, now, to lead like Mary.

Lead Like Mary Model:

Share This