Leaders Remind Themselves Who They Are
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

I write this message from my hometown of West Point, Nebraska. Some of you may know that I grew up in small towns in Nebraska and journeyed East to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Coming home is always a special experience for me. It helps remind me who I am.

At my core, I am still a farm boy from Nebraska. Each year I return to my roots and visit my parents, siblings, many cousins, and the town of West Point. I have done so for nearly 40 years. This time I come alone, which is different. Usually, I would travel with my family – often by car – to spend a holiday with those I care deeply about. This year it is just me.

These trips home always remind me of who I am. They help me recall my childhood dreams. They help me reconnect with those who have known me the longest and know me the best. They help remind me of who I want to be – kind, caring, giving, happy, and serving. They help bring out the best in me by reminding me who I’ve always wanted to be.

As leaders, we can get lost in what we are doing. We can forget who we want to be in our rush to accomplish outcomes. Sure, we must deliver results. But, that does not release us of our other obligations. When I see my family, travel to the local grocery store, and attend my childhood church, it brings me back to the young man I once was. I like that person. I like who I am now, but sometimes it is just necessary to go back and be with those who knew me before my journey to New York.

Whenever I am here in Nebraska, a calmness returns. My childhood home and the open fields of my childhood farm take me back to a slower, more gentle time. Cups of coffee and oatmeal raisin cookies with my parents help me smile more deeply again. Hugs from my siblings, aunts, and cousins, along with small talk about our children, the weather, and sports give me rest from a busy life. It soothes. It heals. It rejuvenates me. We all need time to slow down and remember why we do what we do – to return to who we feel called to be.

As a leader, when do you slow down? How do you return to a slower time and remember your hopes and dreams? How do you find your calling again – so you can lead the way you know you can? Do you encourage others to go on their own “pilgrimages” and vacations to rekindle their fire and find their passion again? These are good questions to ask ourselves – and others.

I will spend a week here on the farm in West Point, Nebraska. I joke with my friends that it is the “vacation capital of the United States.” Why? Because deep down inside, it most certainly is for me. Actually, I just call it home. It will always have a special place in my heart. I hope you too will take such a journey this year. It can help you be the leader you are called to be.