One of the best leaders I ever had the good fortune to work with was an editor named Tim Darragh – but to be honest, I wasn’t that excited when I first heard he would be leading our team.
He seemed a bit uptight to my 27-year-old self. A by-the-rules kind of guy. Not a ton of fun. But into our bureau he came, and it didn’t take long for me to readjust that first impression. He wasn’t uptight at all – although he was demanding, passionate and precise, all skills that make for better journalism (and better journalists). He did play by the rules – and he knew LOTS of them (including about topics such as freedom of speech, open records laws and more). And he was fun – a work-hard, play-hard colleague who had one of the best laughs around.
Looking back now, I can see a direct link between Tim’s arrival and me developing the skills needed to take on two of the most meaningful reporting assignments I had during my time at that newspaper. The first was to cover the canonization of St. Katharine Drexel, an American saint who established her religious order in the same county where I worked. When I went to Tim with the proposal (which included a trip to Rome), he didn’t blow me off. Instead, he helped me develop it into a plan and eventually a 12-part series that would really resonate with our readers. The second memorable assignment was to cover the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001 – and to continue covering it in the days, weeks and year that followed. I still can recall the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the wind on my skin as I dictated my stories to Tim over the phone, word by word, from a grassy field under a beautiful blue sky with tears in my eyes. Every anniversary, I think of Tim and remain grateful for his calm voice on the other end of the phone.
One of the things that made Tim exceptional is that he was really good at what Lao Tzu said is true of all great leaders – they are best when people barely know they exist, and when the work is done and aim fulfilled, their people will say: we did it ourselves. Tim made me feel like everything I did was my success, whether I was reporting from the city hall down the street or from the Vatican in Rome. All these years later, I understand that I wouldn’t have been able to be at either place without him.
This issue of Wider Horizons is a celebration of leadership in the many varied forms it takes. Inspired by the arrival of Dr. Brad Donaldson, the college’s new president and CEO, we wanted to showcase the meaningful ways Lethbridge College people lead in their communities. In some cases, they are leading institutions or businesses they’ve built. In others, they are leading teams, groups and organizations. In all ways, they are making a difference. We’ve asked these leaders to reflect on the people who inspire them in their work, the best advice they have on leadership and life, the traits of good leaders, the challenges and perks of leading people, and the strengths they bring to their own work. We’ve also asked them all some lighter questions – because like Tim, there is usually more to great leaders than meets the eye (and many of them have great laughs, too).
Some of us don’t fully appreciate the work leaders do until days or decades down the road. And so to all the Lethbridge College people out there who lead in so many ways – we recognize you, and we thank you.
Lisa Kozleski, Editor