12 Rules to Lead and Live By: Words of Wisdom for the Class of 2017

I love this time of year. Spring is in full swing, baseball season is here and millions of college seniors are buzzing with excitement, and maybe some mild anxiety, as their last days of higher education are upon them.  Armed mostly with a blank slate and a pocket full of dreams and opportunities, the world is their oyster.

If any soon-to-be graduates are reading this, maybe they’re thinking “this guy is off his rocker.” (Do kids say things like that anymore?) They may be thinking “the party’s over. I have to enter the real world,” “I need a job,” and “I will be how old when my student loans are paid off???”

Ok, first….just breathe. The transition from college to the real world can seem overwhelming, but know this: You are going to be ok.  In fact, you are probably going to do great things. Your current college education may be over, but let this old guy drop some knowledge — the learning doesn’t have to stop.

If you want to see your future, look at who you are

I teach a class called “Managing Yourself and Your Career” in Villanova University’s Executive MBA program. Recently, one of my students asked me to share a summary of my management style as it relates to how I interact with my team.170016-PB-Blog_05_08_17

I gave this a great deal of thought before responding. The truth is, the way I engage with my team and my management style are more a reflection of who I am as a person, whether I’m leading a team, teaching a class or playing the role of husband and father. And when I think back to who I was when my own graduation day was looming before me, I was this same person. And I would have appreciated some real-world advice to help me navigate through “adulting” as I put my college days behind me.

The “Big 12” Rules

So today I share with you “The Big 12.” These are the rules I lead and live by, and what I shared with my student in response to her question. I hope they helped her understand the kind of leadership style I employ, but more importantly, the kind of person I strive to be.

  1. Constantly work to improve.
  2. Treat everyone respectfully, starting with yourself.
  3. Respect yourself by committing to life-long learning and personal growth.
  4. Care deeply, listen intently, serve consistently. And then repeat.
  5. Approach each day like it’s your last.  (Losing my parents at an early age made me appreciate that nothing lasts forever.)
  6. Approach each day leaning towards fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but always balance fun with professionalism and accountability.
  7. Prepare well, get all the information you need – then have confidence in your decisions.
  9. It’s ok to be afraid to fail, but never let it stop you from acting.
  10. Apologize when you’re wrong, but don’t be embarrassed to be wrong.
  11. Understand that the real difference in life is attitude not aptitude.
  12. Never go to bed angry or without saying “I love you” to your family.

We all have a purpose in life that drives us. Mine is my family. My number one goal in life is to provide for them and myself. This goal ignites my passion for learning, growing and staying relevant. Every job I have had and relationship I have built is motivated by this goal. And how I navigate through life (whether as a leader in the workplace or as a person in life in general) is largely dictated by these 12 rules.

What are the rules you lead and live by? I would love to know and, I suspect, so would the class of 2017.