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Mentors, Inspirations and Trailblazers

mentorToday's guest post is courtesy of our board member, Andy Brantley.  Andy is  President and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  This post, concerning the mentors and others who inspire us, is timely as we look ahead to a new year.  Who's been your greatest inspiration in your career?

Stop for just a minute and think about your life and your career. Who are the people who have had the greatest positive influence on you personally and professionally? What did these individuals do that influenced you? Were they mentors? Were they leaders you admired from afar? Were they authors of books, blogs or articles? Were they coworkers? Were they friends or family members? Were they individuals who dared to blaze a trail? There have been, and continue to be, people in each of these categories who have impacted and inspired me personally and professionally.

Mentors … I have never been fortunate enough to be part of a structured mentoring program, but I can tell you that there have been many individuals who have helped and guided me in many ways, be it through one-on-one conversations, through e-mail exchanges, through phone conversations or through their actions. For me, mentoring is not as much about a structured program as it is a commitment to guide and support others and a willingness to seek guidance and support from others. Who are your mentors? Could you name at least two or three people who have, in some way, mentored you?

Leaders admired from afar … The recent passing of Nelson Mandela has given me reason to pause and reflect on my own personal efforts to seek unity. His strength will forever be a source of inspiration to millions. The words of Maya Angelou frequently inspire me and give me strength. I follow her on Facebook so that I can periodically receive words of wisdom directly from her. The opportunity to spend time with Charlayne Hunter-Gault this past fall will always be a source of inspiration for me. Her achievements, including being one of the first African Americans admitted to the University of Georgia and her work in South Africa, give me hope that the America I live in will someday truly be open and accepting of everyone. Of course, there are many other leaders who I admire. Can you name leaders who you admire or who have inspired you?

Coworkers and my CUPA-HR colleagues … In every one of my work experiences, there have been coworkers who have positively impacted me personally and professionally. I could try to name names, but I know that I would leave someone out! To the people I worked with at the Chrysler Corporation, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Davidson College and the University of Georgia, thanks for the impact that you have had on me. To the people that I am fortunate to work with now at CUPA-HR, thanks for the impact that you have on me every day. I acknowledge that I am not perfect (far from it), but I am better because I get to have open, honest dialogues with you every day. Who in your office, college or university would you identify as an inspiration?

Family and friends … I am fortunate to have great family and friends who I learn from every day. My family doesn’t just include my sons and others who are related by blood or marriage. It also includes some pretty incredible people who have truly become family over many years. When you think of your family and friends, who are those people who have helped and continue to help you be who you are?

Trailblazers … Last, but not least, I am so appreciative of those who been, and continue to be, trailblazers. You know who I am referred to, those leaders (at all levels) who tactfully and effectively challenge the status quo, have great ideas that they put into action and are committed to making their organizations better. I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with and be mentored and inspired by several trailblazers. Who are the trailblazers who have most impacted you? Better yet, how are you the trailblazer that others look to as their mentor and inspiration?

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