In my first ever job, I had a very special and unlikely guide. When I was a fresh, young and eager employee, Mr Smith, as we called him, coached, mentored and taught me the ropes. He was tough on me and critical of my professional growth over those first few years.

So, what made Mr Smith so special and unlikely? Although I worked for him for only a year, he wasn’t my manager. Furthermore, Mr Smith helped me on weekends (that’s right, after hours) and he mentored me for years afterwards. You see, Mr Smith didn’t see his function as a job. As a buyer, he was indirectly connected to my role in the accounting function. Yet I was so blessed to have Mr Smith push my development and lead me from such an indirect position. He was always out to try and understand all those around him, as that understanding was his doorway into having the greatest impact on guiding others.

Over the years of reflection, I have come to realise that Mr Smith’s great gift as a Compassionate Leader was his ability to see my potential and guide me there, even when I could not dream of what I was capable of. He saw the acorn and the oak tree. And he did something to help the seed grow in the right direction.

Have you had a guide who saw something much bigger within you, even when your packaging was a bit rough? What would it have meant to you to have such a guide in your career? As a leader, are there people in your team who are overlooked and undernourished? What would happen if you guided them to the oak tree within them?