We were privileged to co-host New York Times best-selling author Tommy Spaulding a little over a week ago at a business leadership breakfast. Tommy’s talk was based on his most recent book, The Heart Led Leader: How Living and Leading from the Heart Will Change Your Organization and Your Life.
The last chapter of his book shares a very personal and powerful story of heart led leadership. When his and Jill’s three children were young and Tommy was traveling a lot (they live in Denver), they decided to hire a live-in nanny to help Jill. They initially decided on a young woman who had just graduated from college but was looking for a one year job prior to joining the Peace Corps. But at the urging of a friend, Tommy and Jill made a last minute decision to interview one other candidate – a young woman (Nikki) who had moved to Denver recently to get away from a troubled past and begin a new life. Nikki’s father was a drug addict and in and out of prison and hospitals. She had been sexually abused during her childhood by other men in and around the family. And she herself had married at 20, only to suffer sexual abuse from her husband, who now was in prison. While Tommy and Nikki had understandable concerns about hiring Nikki, they also sensed a beautiful heart underneath layers of pain. Tommy telephoned the other candidate and shared Nikki’s story and she immediately said, “Tommy, God is speaking to you – you need to hire Nikki. I’m looking for a job for a year – she is looking for a family for a lifetime.” Tommy and Jill hired Nikki.
At first, Nikki was a bit stand-offish, especially with Tommy. But as he, Jill and the kids showed unconditional love to Nikki day after day, her heart warmed and her true personality blossomed. It wasn’t long before she was a total part of the family and ended up living with them for three years. By then she was a healthy, confident beautiful young woman ready to move forward in life.
By then engaged to be married and ready to return home to Santa Fe, she shared with Tommy and Jill that her three years with them had healed her heart – teaching her the amazing dignity of her own life and how to both receive and give love. And as she left, she made one request of Tommy – that he walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
Who in your and my life needs our unconditional love? What candidate for a job has a challenging past but desires a promising future? How can we become heart-led leaders and make real change in the world around us? The opportunities are all around us, we just need to open our eyes –and our hearts.