Justin Donald Leader

Benefits Professional
  • Leader – Open Doors & Open Hearts, Save Lives

    Sep 02, 2015

by Justin Leader


There are moments in your life that will stop you in your tracks.  There are moments that will cause you to become speechless and then there are the moments that bring you to tears.  Today, I felt all three of these.  Fourteen years ago I became a Resident Assistant (RA) at California University of Pennsylvania. Today, I received the following note via Facebook messenger.

“Hey there. Did you go to California University of Pennsylvania? There was guy there when I was there with your name many years ago and … Well I always wanted to tell him thank you. If that was you please let me know and I will elaborate.”

“I was a very troubled man then and you showed me friendship when mostly and many wouldn’t. You may not know this but I attempted suicide once in 2001 in a Longanecker dorm room. I would have attempted it again but you showed me a reason not too. That attempt was my last attempt”

Wow.  I don’t believe I can find the words to describe exactly how the above has made me feel.  Frankly, I am still trying to get my head around how something I had said or done could have changed someones perception of the world.  Not only change their view but inspire them to go on.  To continue to live when they felt hope was lost.  After some great conversation and laughs both this gentleman and I were able to reminisce about a time in our lives that seems so long ago.  More importantly, we chatted about the lives we have lived since then.

There is a far greater lesson to be learned from this story.  One that is applicable to our daily lives.  This involves being compassionate as well as having an open door policy.  I feel that being a great Leader, Manager or Executive goes beyond giving orders, direction or enforcing rules.  It involves being open and showing people that you care.  In hindsight there were so many great RA’s, Graduate Assistants and Resident Directors at the University.  The defining factor in being great and being exceptional were those who kept their door open to all.  What greater example to set for leadership in any organization.  It is simple really.  To this day, my Boss at the time and Resident Director, Rick Dulaney is like a Father to me.  His door, like mine was always open.

I honestly had no idea the impact I would have on this individual.  At the time, I knew that I was just doing my job.  I was providing guidance, friendship and kind consideration for every individual that came through our doors and even more so every single one that came through my 4th floor dorm room door in a building that is no longer standing.  This is still very applicable today in how I conduct my business.  I can think of no greater quote than the following.  “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In offering an open heart and open door imagine the relationships that can be built with every person that you encounter.  Perhaps, putting the shoe on the other foot will enable that person to put their best foot forward, living beyond the potential they, or even you, once thought they had.  Leadership, much like Vince Lombardi’s famous speech on winning, is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.  Great leaders will still have to make very difficult decisions; The greatest leaders will display empathy that of which will define the legacy they leave.