Adam Tank, 2010 K-State graduate, returned to campus at the invitation of the School of Leadership Studies. On April 22nd, Tank spoke to approximately 60 students, faculty and staff about his leadership philosophy and, most importantly, how we can create our own. The name of the lecture was “What You Are Doing Now Is All You’ve Got.” According to Tank, it all comes down to self-reflection. Tank has already begun an impressive career, having worked for General Mills in Tennessee before moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to work for Bazzar Foods. Adam has had a diverse experience for someone just three years post-graduation.
Tank began his lecture by holding up a packet from his freshman year class, LEAD 212: Introduction to Leadership Concepts. In the packet, he had drawn symbols of what success would look like after graduation. Tank’s reflection of success was illustrated by an astronaut, dollar signs, and a yacht-among other images. According to Tank, “My future basically was going to make me something I didn’t want to be.” Tank achieved success early after graduation, working in a management position at General Mills. He was “living the American dream,” by the definition he had set for himself. However, in a move that would surprise many, he gave up the job and the salary to take a more modest position with Bazzar Foods in Rio de Janeiro. Tank decided that he was no longer going to let his prescribed notion of success determine his career. After some self-reflection, he knew that he was ready for a different challenge.
Having given each audience member a piece of white paper, Tank asked the audience his first question, “Out of all of the speeches or lectures you’ve heard in your life, about what percent do you remember?” Each participant recorded a percentage before passing their paper to someone new. The average? Less than 10%. Tank then prompted the audience to take notes and write or draw anything that inspired them in his presentations. “This will help you remember more,” Tank told the group. Tank was preparing the audience to do some self-reflection of their own.
Tank moved onto his second question, “Who, in your past, present, and future, will you spend the most time with?” The answer? Yourself.
“No one”, Tank pointed out, “will you ever spend more time with than you. So, when we ask ourselves, ‘What was I thinking?’ - why is ‘I’ a separate entity?” According to Tank, if we do not know what we are thinking as individuals, how are we ever going to be leaders? If we do not even know who we are, how are we to help others know who they are? This brought Tank to his third question. “Are you comfortable leading other people?”
Tank shared with the audience a story about an employee he managed while in Tennessee. Not giving too many details, Tank shared a challenge he had managing a woman who was as old as his parents. How was he, a 23 year old, expected to have authority over someone twice his age? It turns out, Tank said, “All I needed to know was where I was to help her.” In other words, Tank knew himself, what was important to him, and how he wanted to make an impact on others. This helped his employee reach the same level of self-reflection. Eventually, the woman left the company to continue her education and follow her dreams. Because Adam knew himself, he was in a better position to lead.
“I encourage you to start today,” Tank told the audience- start today on self-reflection. When we know ourselves, we are better equipped to lead others. This led Adam to ask his fourth question for the audience, “What is something you can do right now that would help you become a better person in 30 seconds?”
Tank promptly dropped to the floor and did 10 push-ups. His point? In 30 seconds you can take action that, over time, will benefit you in “ways you can’t imagine.”
We can all start now. By challenging ourselves in self-reflection, even when it means coming to terms with some hard truths, we will become better. By spending intentional time in self-reflection, we will know what we want to do and where we want to lead- and in ways bigger and better than outlined by our freshman year selves. Like Adam, we need to make sure our reflections of success matches our values.
Adam’s philosophy on leadership involves using self-reflection so that you can best know yourself and thus be better prepared to lead others. As an alumni, Adam Tank is sharing his techniques to better the leadership of our students. We’d love input from our other alumni as well! Share the ways you self-reflect on our facebook page!