As a leader you face many opportunities to wield your influence over others. You may never know when your actions have the potential to make a lasting imprint on the life of another. If you are fortunate enough to find out, those moments have the power to transform not only the lives you have touched, but your own life as well.

I was recently out to dinner with my family, when a gentleman approached our table.  He said, “Pardon me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but did you teach at the local vocational school?” I responded that I had, but recently was displaced due to a reduction in force. He immediately responded, “They are crazy to let you go! I was in your class 10 years ago. You made the biggest difference in my life and in my career.”

After enduring a layoff, this was just the sort of happy message I needed to lift my spirits. That subtle high was swiftly dashed however, as the man proceeded to remind me of how hard I was on the people in my class, including him. He explained that he had perceived me as a cold, hard instructor who wasted time harping on insignificant details such as showing up to work on time and dressing professionally. Listening to this harsh review of my teaching style made me wonder how I had had a positive effect on him at all.

He must have felt my growing discomfort, as he paused and smiled. Placing a hand on my shoulder he said, “Don’t worry, you were a witch, but a good witch.” I had to laugh as he reminded me of a decoration I had hanging in my classroom that read “Today the good witch is in.”

He then shared how, upon graduation, he found himself challenged with the task of managing his own business along with a stable of new employees. He was astonished with the lack of ownership he experienced with some of his staff who thought nothing of coming in late, slacking off on some of their duties, wearing sloppy clothing, and showing no respect for customers. It was then that those tough rules I taught him back in school came in handy. Applying the same disciplined measures with his employees that I had employed in the classroom turned out to be a formula for success for maintaining order.

As we parted, I thanked him for sharing his story with me. It provided the lift I needed to continue my job search for my next post. I realized that when you are a leader, people are watching and learning from you at all times. Even when you think no one will notice, they most likely will. Acting with the utmost integrity at all times is highly important, especially when you are the leader or in charge of employees in a business. And most of all, it is the spirit of why you do what you do that they will remember most.

 Being mindful of the consequences of every action you take every day and who it affects will serve you well in your efforts to become the kind of leader who makes a lasting impact. When you create an environment or culture that is positive and full of respect, you will receive respect and a more positive attitude from your employees. You actually have the power to transform your employees’ lives in a positive manner. You may never know who you have touched or how, but you can rest assured that you acted in the manner of a leader.