Letter To My First Leader

Man writing on the paper in the office

After hundreds of feedback sheets and one-on-one discussions with supervisors and managers, I have put into a letter what a Leader Owner Mindset Manager wants and deserves. This applies whether they are newly promoted or have been allowed to “meet expectations” for years. This letter could be written to any leader in your career but the sooner the better.

This letter really hit home after recently giving a keynote to 30 college interns working through the summer. In the near future, they will need this guidance.  


This is the letter that every true leader wants to be able to write….and receive:

To: My First Leader

As I prepare for retirement and the next chapter in my life, I wanted to thank you for the role you played in what I consider a successful career and life. Even my wife and kids know of the wisdom and influence you have shared with me over the years.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve in a leadership role. I appreciated your confidence in me. Being responsible for the livelihoods associated with a six figure annual payroll was initially very overwhelming. You kept me grounded by telling me to become “Brilliant In The Basics” and everything will fall in place.

I remember on the day of my promotion, you congratulated me and told me that effective today, I had more authority and leadership tools than I had guts and confidence to use. You were absolutely right but you did not allow me to hover in that mindset very long. 

That first day was also when you explained the two choices of culture that would define my leadership; A culture of documented Education, Engagement and Accountability OR a culture of unaccountability through years of no written documentation, no performance improvement plans, no levels of discipline and no terminations. Of course in your organization, there was only one choice of culture. 

When I think back on the leadership and life lessons you shared, most come back to that three legged stool of Education, Engagement and Accountability. 

  • Education – You made sure I had the tools and training to be successful. You called it “investing in me” so I would “invest in others”. I had manager friends that had to learn everything “on the job” through “experience”. I will never forget your statement; “Personal experience is the best teacher but it’s also the most painful, costly and time consuming. The absolute best experience is that of someone else.” I still look back at some of the business books you have given me over the years. Most of these I have also ordered and given to others during my career. 
  • Engagement – You talked to me. I always knew where I stood and what role I played in the success of the organization. These were conversations about the company culture, the company vision, your expectations and my progress. You praised me, corrected me and helped me be successful. These were one-on-one conversations and not through a rubber stamped annual review, e-mail or company memo. 
  • Accountability – I appreciate how you held me accountable for improving results. You showed me the value of accountability in improving the performance of my team. You shared the impact of performance improvement plans, different levels of discipline and if all else fails, terminations. Initially, it was bothersome when you would just pop in and ask for documentation on team improvement but as a result of those requests, my results improved. I continued this practice throughout my career.  Those requests by you were instrumental in my eventual high level of personal accountability.

Thank you for teaching me that documentation was one of the most valuable tools of being “Brilliant In The Basics”. Even when I later reported to others that didn’t require documentation, I kept at it because of your initial guidance. I believe it played a major role in my success. 

I appreciate your lessons on balance between work, family and life. I have shared the bucket story with thousands. That old cliché of “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, well, I was ready and you have been the teacher many times.

Again, thank you for planting the seeds of success in my leadership and life. Many of my successes have been a result of you investing in me years ago so I could invest in others.


Greg L. Gilbert

Every manager, supervisor and leader deserves to be able to write and receive this letter. This letter is written and received by a Leader Owner Mindset.


We work with leaders that have or want this level of team development and accountability.

Greg Gilbert

Greg Gilbert conducts keynotes and the Leadership Development Program, “Education, Engagement, Accountability; The Results, Morale And Culture Solution!” On-Site and at locations around the country. He also presents “Lessons In Leadership, Life And Laughter” with “Mr. HR With A Guitar” at team, association and civic meetings.

He is the author of “The Power Of Better Series – Volume I – Leading Like You Own It! Why We Never Wax A Rental Car.”  and his PDF (Personal Development Fiction) book 50 Days Of Hay – A Life Changing Summer. He is committed to improving results through increased Education, Engagement and Accountability.

Visit GregGilbertCoaching.com for more information.

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