Most of us have at least one teacher from our childhood that made a significant impact on our lives. Mrs. Deanne Singer, now 74 years old and retired, was that teacher in my life. Not because she was the best marketing and business teacher I had back in high school, but because of the life lessons she taught me outside the classroom.

Most of my childhood teachers saw my poor grades and learning disabilities. Mrs. Singer saw something different – she saw my potential. I looked forward to attending her class because she had a different teaching style. She was like Mr. Kotter on the 1970’s television show Welcome Back, Kotter- And I became her #1 “sweathog”.

I had low self esteem in my early high school years; Summer school, standardized tests and the “resource” room can do that to a kid. But Mrs. Singer had a plan. She got me involved with DECA, an organization that prepares leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in business, and I went on to become a state and national DECA champion. She encouraged me to stick with the Boy Scouts, and I later became an Eagle Scout. She encouraged me to run for class office and I became president of my senior class. She encouraged me to try out for the school musicals and the varsity football team. All of a sudden this dyslexic kid with no self esteem started to discover a new found confidence. What seemed like overnight – I became one of the most popular students at Suffern High School.

And then the pendulum started to swing. I gained a little “too much” confidence. I walked the halls with a swagger in my step- And Mrs. Singer noticed and called me out.

“Tommy, success is good. Popularity is good. Influence is good. But it is what you do with your success and influence that really matters. And humility is what holds all this together. If you lose your humility, you will lose your opportunity to make real impact on the world.”

There are few moments in my life that I can say were game changers. That moment, that conversation with Mrs. Singer changed my life. Everything I know about leadership thirty years later all leads back to Mrs. Singer’s important life lesson – humility is the single most powerful quality of a heart-led leader.

When I wrote The Heart-Led Leader I interviewed dozens and dozens of leaders who’ve had tremendous impact on the world – CEO’s, entrepreneurs, a school principal, Olympic athlete, astronaut, prison warden, thought leaders and even a rock star! And when I told each one of these amazing leaders they were the “real deal” and the ultimate heart-led leader – do you know how every single person responded? Not me.

You got the wrong person.

When you read about Walt Rakowich, Frank DeAngelis, Tee Green, Cheryl Bachelder, Burl Cain, Bill Graebel, Tim Stojka, Jodi Rolland, John Hayes, Colonel Rick Searfoss, Rod Dixon and Jay Jay French – you will be inspired to live, lead and love differently. You will learn what I learned – that humility is the most important quality of a heart-led leader. And you will learn what Mrs. Singer taught me over 30 years ago – if you lose your humility, you will lose your opportunity to make real impact on the world!

Tommy Spaulding
November, 2015