Bradley Byrne: Back to school leadership tips

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Earlier this year, I was asked to compile my thoughts on leadership and what it means to be an effective leader. With students back in school, high school football season underway, and college football right around the corner, I wanted to share some highlights from my leadership journey with students, athletes, and others.

Throughout my professional and personal life experiences, I’ve found these three simple tips, and I think they can apply to each and every one of us.

(1) Leaders Trust Their Team: A leader is only as good as the people around them. But, just having a team is not enough. You have to be able to trust them to do their job.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help and surrounding yourself with talented people who can help you achieve your goals.

I honestly believe I have the most talented staff on Capitol Hill and an equally talented team working for me back in Alabama. I depend on my staff all the time, whether it is briefing me on a legislative priority or arranging my complicated schedule. I could never achieve all of my goals in Congress without my first-rate team.

(2) Leaders Listen: Far too often we spend all of our time talking when we should actually be listening. Stopping to listen to the ideas of others allows you to be better at whatever it is you are doing.

This is why I value holding town hall meetings. I have held over 85 in-person town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and that number goes over 100 if you include telephone and online town halls. I don’t see these meetings as an opportunity for me to talk. Instead, they are really a chance for me to listen to the people I represent.

To be clear, listening does not mean you always have to agree with the other person or change your opinion.  Sometimes I agree with what the individuals say and sometimes I disagree, but that is the value in listening. It is always helpful to hear different perspectives on any issues or topic before making a decision, giving you a wider range of understanding.

(3) Leaders Never Give Up: July 13, 2010 was a difficult night for me. It was the night I lost the runoff in the Republican primary to be the next Governor of Alabama. It had been such a grueling campaign for my family and me, but, most importantly, I truly believed we could have made a really positive impact on our state. However, it was not to be.

It would have been easy for me to let that moment define the rest of my career. I could have given up on public service altogether. Honestly, the thought crossed my mind.

Then, in May of 2013, Congressman Jo Bonner announced he was resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives. I once again had the chance to serve the state and people that I love.

The message here is to never let the fact that one door closes force you to give up on something you are passionate about. The question is never whether you will experience some level of setback or failure, because every leader will. The real question is how will you respond and overcome the setback. That is what will define you.

It is my hope that these three simple tips will help our young people as they head back to school, but the tips can apply to any of us, regardless of where we are in life. We should never miss an opportunity to learn from our friends and neighbors.

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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

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