By Karen Marinella, Principal

mickey mouse

I spent last week with my husband’s family in the western part of the United States, exploring the Teton Mountains in Wyoming and the snow-covered sites of Yellowstone National Park, before finally arriving in Missoula, Montana for my stepdaughter’s college graduation. 

While very proud of my step-daughter’s accomplishments, I figured the University of Montana Commencement would be pretty typical - maybe even lackluster - compared to the majestic and awesome natural beauty we had seen in the previous days. I certainly did not expect to be inspired by a commencement speech.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock opened his address at Grizzly Stadium: “I'd love to stand here and believe I might be able to say something that means something to you.” With that I thought – yeah - it’s going to be another boring speech filled with the usual platitudes about exploring your dreams. I started to tune out – enjoying the warm sunny weather and the beautiful mountain backdrop. Then I heard the Governor advise the students to “Keep your Mickey Mouse watch.” What? Now he had my attention.  

When he was a young college graduate, the Governor landed a job in a large company. He was working hard to make an impression and set himself up for future success. One day his boss told him to get rid of the black and white Mickey Mouse watch. The watch did not set the right tone in the business world. The Governor thought about it – and decided to go shopping for a new watch. He bought a grown-up looking gold watch. But here’s the twist - it was a gold “Mickey Mouse” watch! You see the Governor did want to fit into the corporate culture – but he did not want to give up who he was.  

Governor Bullock’s story is a great lesson for any leader. While it is important to reflect your corporate environment, it is equally important to remain true to oneself. The Governor found a way to adapt to the corporate culture with his new gold watch while holding on to the playful, fun part of his personality.  

In leadership - one size – or in this case one watch - does not fit all. And by the way – Governor Bullock still owns and wears both Mickey Mouse watches!

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