Leadership Spotlight 

Your Leadership Is Your Life Story (Part One of Two) 

Stock image of a woman standing in an office.

Years ago my wise mother wrote, “I never regretted what I did in my life, only what I did not do.” It took me a long time to understand what that meant. I have come to realize that those words define how people lead their lives. Those words are about appreciating your life experiences and finding understanding in each of them. Live in the present, learn from the past, and look forward to a future of growth and purpose.

Your leadership is your life story. Life experiences, good, bad, or somewhere in between, define who you become as a person—and as a leader. True leaders appreciate their own experiences without regret, yet understand that a life of no regrets means continually striving to be a better human being while admitting one’s own fallibilities.

Recently I reflected on my own life by starting a list, “50 Things I Have Experienced in My Life.” I looked back at my childhood, teenage and young adult years, and recent decades. I did not try to list anything in order. I simply listed experiences as they came to my mind. I even found myself remembering little things I thought I long had forgotten.

I remembered my wide eyes as a little girl listening to my mother’s bedtime stories about growing up in World War II in Austria and, as a 20 year old, surviving air raids and the deaths of friends while still seeking the joys of a young woman’s life—boys, pretty dresses, and laughter with girlfriends. I recalled sneaking underage into my first R-rated movie. Then, all of a sudden, I thought about my time as a new agent trainee at the FBI Academy in 1997 and meeting who eventually would become my best friend.

After writing that, I listed “2009–National Academy instructor–best job ever.” Then I wrote about my father’s death when I was 27 years old. I understood quickly that all of these experiences profoundly touched my life, no matter how seemingly insignificant or grand the experiences were because they all are part of my life story and have led to who and where I am today. Those same experiences influence how I touch and interact with each person every day, even if they happened many years ago. They really never left me.

Your life story defines your leadership because appreciating and understanding your experiences, whether “insignificant” or life changing, ultimately determine your resilience, spirit, compassion, and fearlessness—which, in turn, gives you the courage to truly lead and inspire others. What is your life story?


Special Agent Suzanna Hasnay, an instructor in the Center for Police Leadership and Ethics at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.