For all of the things written about the workplace today, it would be easy to pick one of the many problems or "opportunities for improvement" and just write about that. But that isn't why I'm here.
I experienced something in the past as a leader of a team that lights me up when I think back on it. It's something that fills me up with gratitude and pride (hopefully the healthy kind). And it ultimately gave me a sense of the kind of joy that is possible at work even when the team is a collection of imperfect members (myself, the team lead - likely being the most flawed).
Those years and all those memories leading that team gave me something that I want all managers to experience. I have an overwhelming sense of pride and joy when I think of what my team was able to accomplish under very demanding circumstances. Yes, I'm proud of what I contributed to help get there, but even more proud of how my team surpassed my expectations and were able to bring the best of themselves in ways that I could not have known to ask for.
Some of my proudest moments were the times when things would break and to see how my team handled things with confidence and grace. Or when my team would correct me or give their own improved recommendations over what I initially thought would be the best way to approach something.
The feeling of leading and being a part of a high-performing team that achieved a level of freedom (way beyond just "balance") felt amazing. The experience taught me so many lessons about leading and managing - even in circumstances and within a company that has many of the same challenges in big companies everywhere.
I hope that all managers get to experience something like that - a sense of what is possible when trust and freedom bring about the best in your team. That feeling of joy and pride that overflows to the point of bringing tears to your eyes. It has guided me through many failures, tough decisions and crappy situations as a leader and inspires me to try and recreate that environment wherever I go.