A Letter to the Leader

by  Alan Derek Utley  |  Leadership Development
A Letter to the Leader

Dear Leader:

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about our time together – the good and the bad – and today I felt like writing you a letter.

No, not a letter of resignation. Rather, a letter of thanks. For all you’ve done for me, I want to say “way to go!”

You probably don’t hear it all that often, but you’ve made a huge impact on me. Both as a person and as a professional.

It all started on the very first day I came to work.

How? Simple. You made me feel welcome.

When I showed up, my work space was prepared and my supplies were laid out, ready for me to use. There was even a little note card from you that said, “welcome.”

And my favorite thing of all? You left a fancy mug with the company’s logo on my desk. So cool.

I know what you’re probably thinking – that’s silly, that’s basic stuff. But, you’d be surprised.

I had a boss at another company who didn’t say hello to me on my first day. She went as far as to pass me in the hallway without even a glance. I remember it well:

As I saw her approach from the other end of a long hallway, I straightened my back, cracked my best smile and readied my hand for a firm handshake, to be followed by a pleasant “good morning.”  But, nothing. She passed me and kept going.

I never forgot that.

So, please know what a huge impact you had on me that day you were ready for my arrival. I know you are incredibly busy, and it made me feel special and loyal to this company from the very start.

I could stop there, but that’s not all I want to give thanks for today.

There was another time when you pulled me into your office to tell me I wasn’t meeting your expectations. Do you remember that?

I remember, because you did it with such finesse and grace. I could have left that meeting feeling like a lesser person, but you made the exact opposite happen!

Instead, while I did leave your office feeling sad about how I had disappointed you, more importantly, I felt optimistic that I knew how to do better and could improve.

One thing you said to me really stood out:

“If you want to get to the next level, perform like you’re already there.”

A short time after that meeting, you caught me doing the very thing that you asked me to do, and you stopped me in the hall to tell me that I had nailed it.

You said:

“That was perfect. Do more of that!”

So, I did.

Those were the early days of our time together, when I was green and needed your close guidance. But, somewhere along the way, things changed. For the better.

Like, just last year when you called a meeting with me to talk about your strategic five-year goals. I remember thinking, “This is very interesting, but why is she telling me all this?”

But, by the time you were done, it was all clear.

To my surprise, you were asking me to take the lead on one of your new initiatives. Yes, I was excited, but there was only one BIG problem. I had absolutely no idea how to do the thing you were asking of me. But, that didn’t seem to bother you. Not one bit.

To me, you said:

“No worries. I trust that you can do this. And, I’ll help.”

So we did it. And it was great.

I feel like I’m gushing, but I can’t end this letter without also acknowledging how well you’ve supported me personally, during some of the hardest times. Like, when I had a sick family member in the hospital. You didn’t make me feel bad for something I couldn’t control or guilty for not being at work.

Instead, you said:

“Go, take care of your family. We’ll handle things until you get back.”

I’ll never forget how that made me feel and how much you helped me and my family.

I hope you see that, from my perspective, things have been going well with us. You’re a great leader, and I never want that to change.

You asked me once to never hold back on giving YOU feedback. So, while I have your attention, I’ll just take this opportunity to share how I want you to continue to lead me.

Here are a few tips on the best ways to lead me:

  • Continue trusting and pushing me, and giving me space to do my best work.
  • Start spending more time with me. Your attention is invaluable for my development.
  • Stop taking on too much work yourself. Use me. I’m up for the challenge!

In closing, one more time, I want to sincerely say thank you for all that you’ve done and will do for me. It is because of you that I continue to work for this company and enjoy what I get to do every day.

I look forward to what’s to come, whatever that may be.


Your Follower

What would you say to the best leader you have had?

About The Author

Articles By alan-utley
Alan Utley is a Regional HR Director for one of the world’s largest vacation businesses. By night he dabbles in executive coaching, blogging, and public speaking and is proud to serve on the management faculty at a major university. In his own words, Alan is a “world-class wannabe expert in all things leadership and careers.” Connect with Alan at www.alanderekutley.com and on Twitter @AlanDUtley.

What People Are Saying

Stephanie  |  14 Jul 2016  |  Reply

Great article! Can’t wait to share the information with my leadership team at this weeks training. It’s always good to know that someone else is thinking with the same kind of big picture thoughts as I am.

Alan Derek Utley  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

Thank you, Stephanie. I’m so glad this connected with you and that our ideas are in sync! Good luck with your training.

– Alan

Robert Chew  |  14 Jul 2016  |  Reply

What a great letter! Thank you for composing and sharing it.

Alan Derek Utley  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

Robert, thank you for your kind words.

– Alan

Margy Kerr-Jarrett  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

I loved this letter, Alan! I think sometimes its hard to express ourselves and our appreciation to our leaders –this really outlines the process by which a leader can help encourage someone to grow in a supportive and caring environment!

Alan Derek Utley  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

Margy, how nice to hear from you. I really enjoyed writing this letter. It was a nice way to give thanks and also vent a little about that little hallway experience that I never forgot. It really left an impression, as you can see. :)

Cindy  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

To the best two managers I can recall, I would say to the first : Thanks for giving me perspective and encouragement. When I had been there a very short time and had found a mistake in a file (which I may have made or it may have been someone else’s… I don’t remember) she said, “well, one thing you’ll find out after being in this business a while is that nothing that is messed up can’t be corrected, until a check is mailed. So, since you caught this one very early, it will just take a few minutes to figure out and fix. Don’t worry about it.”

To the other, I would say, “thanks for ‘having my back.’ You always stood up for the people who reported to you, even when there was a risk for you in doing it. I’ll never forget that. ” When I started that job, a family member was critically ill and I had told the boss that I might need to take unpaid leave if/when she got worse. He remarked, “We’ll cross that bridge later.” When the time came, I had scraped together enough vacation time to take time off to care for her and requested the vacation time to do it. His response was “No, I don’t think so. That’s not vacation time. That’s family leave.” I protested that I hadn’t worked there long enough to accrue sufficient leave time, but he said, “Let me work that out. I’ll deal with HR and get it set up. Vacation is for R&R, not something as stressful as this. You get out of here and take care of your family. This is just work… not nearly as important.” From that day on, if anybody said anything negative about him in my presence, they heard from me!

Alan Derek Utley  |  20 Jul 2016  |  Reply

Cindy, thank you for sharing. What wonderful leaders you’ve had! You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.

– Alan

Kelly  |  15 Jul 2016  |  Reply

What a beautiful letter. A reminder that the little things add up to make an exponential difference in the lives of employees overall job satisfaction- which filters into their personal lives as well.

I wish I had a supervisor such as yours right now, however, I am reminded that there is always something to learn, even from what we might perceive, as the worst boss ever. In the mean time – I will continue to ensure my new staff all have the best stocked office space – with that brand new coffee mug and hydroflask!

Thanks again for sharing such a beautiful letter. I would love to hear how your boss responded. I am inspired to write a letter to a former supervisor and thank them, even though it is after the fact!

Alan Derek Utley  |  20 Jul 2016  |  Reply


I hope you DO write that letter. I can promise that’ll make their day, maybe even their year.

As for your current struggles – been there. Some of my best lessons were learned while under the leadership of a “bad boss.” And, it was always temporary.

– Alan

Patricia  |  18 Jul 2016  |  Reply

The best manager I ever worked with made it clear to me early on that we worked together, not that I worked FOR her, although she was my boss. She didn’t try to be my best friend, but she did make sure I knew we were a team. She continued to shoulder large parts of my newly created position until I could get my feet wet and understand all the parts of my new role. Over a period of time, she doled out my responsibilities so that I was doing all of my job and she was overseeing my work on an as needed basis. No question I asked was ever considered stupid. All questions were assumed to be asked from 1) lack of experience in the task and 2) a desire to get it right. When I moved into supervision, I hope I did the same for my new hires.

Alan Derek Utley  |  20 Jul 2016  |  Reply


That’s certainly a servant leader, in my eyes. I love that notion – that we together, instead of FOR someone.

I think it is important that we see questions as opportunities. Too often, though, I see a question seen as an attack or as a weakness. That doesn’t have to be the case, and it seems your leader understood that.

Thank you for sharing!

Peter Jeff  |  01 Aug 2016  |  Reply

Alan, your letter is so inspiring that I would like your permission to include it in a book I am publishing on Amazon.com August 12 that celebrates servant leadership. The book is titled LOVING Like a Leader. If this is okay with you, please send me an e-mail and let me know how I should identify you. The headline on your two-page spread in the book will say simply: A Letter to a Loving Leader. And of course I will send you a copy of the 272-page book filled with 77 short stories on loving leaders that I call Leadership Mints (like the candy easily accessed and quickly refreshing). Send your e-mail to PeterJeff@charter.net.

Girly  |  13 Oct 2016  |  Reply

Thank you for sharing your letter with us, Alan. I’m now ready to make one for my supervisor.

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