I am continuing my leadership development blog with a series about leaders who have impacted me. I’m going to kick this off going back to my high school English teacher Dr. Edward Dwyer. My senior year of high school was a long time ago, but to this day Ed Dwyer has had an outsized influence on my leadership, especially how I communicate.
Dr. Dwyer took an unconventional path to teaching English. He attended the US Military Academy and served as an Airborne-Ranger Infantry officer.
West Point is both a laboratory and a factory for producing leaders so there is no doubt where Ed Dwyer got such a great foundation. He served in assignments in Korea and stateside. When his Army commitment was up he decided to pursue a new career as an educator.
When I encountered Ed Dwyer many years later in senior English class, he was a tall, fit gent with thick grey hair who favored horn-rim glasses and turtlenecks. But what stood out about Dr. Dwyer was his passion for his craft and his ability to share that passion. He was also willing to take risks to get us to buy in. It’s been over 35 years, but I still remember the day he showed up to class dressed up as Grendel the swamp demon from Beowulf. We had to interview Grendel to get a better understanding of his perspective and to help us with our final exam question. Dr. Dwyer showed how much fun Chaucer’s’ Canterbury Tales could be, and on and on. I never knew how much I could enjoy English lit. As a leader today, my goal is always to share my passion, whether for our firm and services or in our leadership development sessions. And while I have yet to show up to a meeting dressed as a swamp demon I do try to occasionally take some risks in pursuit of a better outcome.
Ed Dwyer not only shared his passion, but he made us better communicators with the simple motto of “less is more”. He would have us write a paper, provide feedback and have us resubmit it “less 10%”. Not easy but we would resubmit, and he would once again provide feedback and finish with the same comment – “resubmit with 10% less”. We learned the power of concise written communication. To this day I still think about the phrase “less is more” as I work on client deliverables, proposals and team feedback in the form of written reviews.
Because of this blog, I took the opportunity to reach out to Ed Dwyer, who is enjoying a very active retirement; still doing some teaching, learning, traveling, working out and spending lots of time with his family. We had a great conversation and he shared his views on leadership development that he honed not only as an Army officer and teacher but also as a private sector communications consultant. He stressed being authentic as a leader, so people will trust you. He also talked about getting input from your team, clients or students to benefit from their expertise and buy-in. Finally, he made the case for being innovative as a leader and a communicator, which perhaps explains the Grendel get-up and my continued fretting about whether to cut this blog by 10%!