The Leader Who Licked Envelopes

One day when I was 24, I was leaving the office and walked past a conference room. There, with the administrative assistants, was the head of my firm, folding and stuffing letters and licking envelopes. He had told us that the admins were working on something important and urgent. We got the message to stay away from the admins.

But when I saw him engaged in the actual work, I realized—I internalized—that what they were doing must be very important. I saw my leader’s example. I realized I could help, too. I even felt compelled to help.

I walked back to my office, put down my bag, and went to that conference room to help. Not to brown-nose; to help. A few other people did, too. We got the job finished before the main post office closed!

And from then on, when this leader said something was important, I similarly internalized it. He was sincere. I followed.


I mentioned in last month’s column, which celebrated Bill Russell for being a player-coach, that leaders can’t just sit on the sidelines when something important is happening, like a change in the organization. Even though our job description doesn’t include “licking envelopes,” showing our support—especially in deed—is a giant part of what we must do.

Sure, we lead in other ways. We develop and drive the strategy for the business. We have responsibilities to many stakeholders. We have the weight of the world on our shoulders sometimes. And yet that weight can lighten for us when we show people something is important.

When we say “This is important,” they likely hear us. When we DO “this is important,” they know, they internalize, that THIS. IS. IMPORTANT.

So, leaders, let’s not just SAY “This is important.” Let’s DO “This is important.”

Although if it involves sealing envelopes, we might try a wet sponge, eh?

Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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