Prologue – Foreward

I’ve spent the better part of my career trying to make work better for others. Even when I wasn’t fully aware of it, I always thought making work better was just what leaders did: people in places of privilege who had not just a responsibility but an obligation to serve others in their care.

I’ve come to understand, though, that not everyone sees leadership like I do. That’s because leadership is a human experience. Leaders are made, not born.
What we see, feel, and experience from other leaders as we grow into greater and greater roles of responsibility has a profound imprint on how we show up as
leaders ourselves. It’s good, bad, and at times ugly role model leaders. Sometimes we emulate what we got. Sometimes we carve a different path in spite of what we see.

There is one truism through it all. No one sets out to be a bad leader. There is no human being I am aware of that starts the day thinking “Ha! Today is the day I will bring her down.”

For most of us, our path is a matter of luck and opportunity. There are great people around us that inspire us and others that don’t. There are good people with bad leader role models. There are incompetent people who are skillfully groomed by the best to be great. Regardless, we all build tools and skills along the way and try them out—rightly and wrongly—in every situation and then repeat the process. We experiment, learn, experiment, fail, and learn again. At the start it’s all great lines, images, theory, and thinking. At the finish line it’s either a Picasso or a kindergartener’s finger painting.

Through all of this we have an ardent audience—our people—who, as long as we’re not sociopathic or narcissistic, amazingly are in it for our win. They need for us to win. Because that makes work and life better for them and for everyone, frankly. They need leaders that care, that build trust; where they find faith to follow, especially when times are unpredictable and difficult. They need leaders to challenge systems and the status quo, ask “why not?” instead of saying “cannot.” They want to be seen. To be known. To matter.

They need cultures designed by leaders where everyone shows up, belongs, and unleashes magic in service of something bigger and better than anyone can do on their own. They want to win. Otherwise, work can just plain suck.

Enter Terry Gillis, my long-time friend and author of the book you’re about to start reading. For those of you who know Terry, you’ll “hear” him jump right off these pages. For those of you who don’t, I can honestly say what you see is what you get in real life—funny, experienced, no-holds-barred reflections and advice from a kind, irreverent, committed leader. After 30+ years of knowing him, I can tell you he’s one of the good guys, in service to others on a mission that’s bigger than himself. To “desuckify” work. That dear readers, is work worth doing for us all.

Happy reading!

Lâle Kesebi, Founder & CEO, Human at Work