Someone very dear to me recently retired. She worked as a civil servant in Spain all her life. During her time there she opened an international relations department, was demoted a couple of times (you can’t fire a civil servant, so when governments change, so do the higher roles), moved between ministries, shook the King’s hand a few times, joined the Union’s committee, left the Union’s committee, represented Spain at meetings in Strasbourg and Brussels, etc etc.
Her cv certainly became impressive but her most impressive achievements were the fact that she was always proud of her work, always gave 100%, always demanded 100% from those reporting to her – and from those she was reporting to – and she knew and respected those who have the less thankful but most important jobs – like the janitors, concierges and those in charge of maintenance.
During the last two years at her ministry she was treated appallingly, partly due to her age (in her 60’s – that’s really old!!!) and partly due to her unwillingness to ever play the political game. The person who had recently replaced her (underqualified, but friend of boss – and this was stated as the main reason for bringing him in, yes, true) was recently demoted too. After not receiving any kind of send-off from the ministry, this man told my mother that at least, she was leaving with the warmth and affection of the ministry, as two big leaving-dos had been organised for her. She replied: “Do you think I didn’t work for it?” The send-off was not a “leaving-do”, it was a big thanks from everyone she had worked with in the civil service for the last 40 years.
The biggest testament to her leadership qualities was the fact that her first secretary recently told her with tears in her eyes that she was the friend she loved most in the world.
My mother never considered herself ” a leader” – but she truly helped people’s development, she got results, she had everyone’s respect (friends’ and enemies’ ) and the Spanish civil service is just that one bit worse-off without her.