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I Did Not Know This Was My Responsibility

empathy growth leadership Jun 02, 2020

Hey everyone, I am Tom Miller and I wanted to share this quote with you. 

John Maxwell shared, "Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” 

If you knew me 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago, you would more than likely remember a person of lesser character, limited personal accountability, empathy, and awareness of how my actions impacted others. I have worked hard over the last 5 to make significant changes to be the father, spouse, and community leader. 

However, over the last week, watching the turmoil unfold, I have come to realize that I am not even close to the leader that I need to be. 

John Maxwell shares, “If you want to change and grow, then you must know yourself and accept who you are before you can start building.”

Last week, when George Floyd died I said, “Wow, this is terrible.” But it was just “another” incident. 

When the protesting began, I said, “I just hope it doesn’t get violent.” 

When the violence began, I said, “What is wrong with people?”

Last night I finally realized that I said and thought all of these things without taking into consideration George Floyd and his family. 

I said and thought all of these things without taking into consideration asking any of my neighbors, who are all of different race and nationality than me, “How are you? Are you ok? 

I said and thought these things without reaching out to African American school leaders that we partner with to ask, “How are you?” “Is there anything I can do?” Or just, “Hello”. I said and thought all of those things without taking into consideration the charter school that I was just the interim principal at for months. A school in which I was the only white Caucasian person in the building. Sadly, those hundreds of students, the staff, were not on my mind. 

I didn’t do it not because I don’t care. It was because honestly, I did not know that it was my responsibility. 

But yesterday, during our Inner Circle mastermind groups for school leaders, something told me that I should start each meeting with that question. “How is everyone doing?” 

I cannot express the emotion I felt as every school leader seemed to just exhale it all out. There were tears, there was anger, there was a feeling of unity. That we know as school leaders, we need to change. That we have a response-ability, to the communities we serve. 

We acknowledged that the only way to create change, is to change ourselves. That growth only occurs outside of our comfort zone. That accepting growth is a choice and we choose as school leaders, community leaders, leaders of people of all races, nationalities, and backgrounds to get out of our comfort zone and change. 

According to John Maxwell’s There are four phases of growth: 

Phase I: I don’t know what I don’t know. As long as a person doesn’t know what he doesn't know, he isn’t going to grow. 

Phase II: I know that I need to know. Many people find themselves in a leadership position and realize that no one is following them. When that happens we realize we need to learn how to lead. 

Phase III: I know what I don’t know. As a leader I have to realize that I do not know all of the skills or the answers, I know that my learning journey must continue. 

Phase IV: I know and grow, and it begins to show. When you recognize your lack of skills in an area, and begin the daily discipline of personal growth, exciting things happen. 

This latest incident has moved me beyond Phase II as a leader with a very harsh realization that I need to accelerate my learning. To create this growth, I need to answer the seven questions below in an honest fashion to create myself a personal and specific plan of action. 

  1.   What would you like to do?
  2.   What talents, skills, and opportunities do you possess that bolster your desire named in #1?
  3.   What are your motives for #1?
  4.   What steps, starting today, must you take to reach #1?
  5.   Whose advice can you seek to help?
  6.   What is the price you are willing to pay?  To enact #1, it will cost time, talent, and treasure.
  7.   Where do you most need to grow so that #1 becomes a reality?

If I am honest and take my time to answer those questions, I hope to discover a very clear awareness of self, along with some general directions for my future growth. How you think is key to determining the outcome of your life.

If you can change your thinking, you can change your life.

If you are seeking to be more and do more, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Watching this video from the NY Times with my wife, Jennifer, made me extremely uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as the millions of people who live with an uncomfortable feeling of somehow my life doesn’t matter. 

Personal growth always comes from taking action, and taking action always brings criticism. I encourage you to move forward anyway.

If you have yet to ask your team, your neighbors, or your family, “How are you?” I encourage you to do so today. 

Change doesn't take long. Getting ready for change is what takes all the time. I am ready for change. 

Your ever evolving friend,


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