How Everyday Leaders Cross the Boundary


I wrote last week about the passing of my friend Colin Hubbell and was reminded of his “best self” everyday leadership as I stood at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula, just before sunrise yesterday.  I was talking with two of the women who had been selected to run the 4-1/2 mile span of the Bridge as “ambassadors of fitness.”  These 35-ish women had each lost 100 to 150 pounds.  “How did you decide to do it?” I asked.  “What happened that you totally turned things around?”  They told me.

One woman had weighed over 300 pounds, though I could hardly believe it as she looked now to be about 5’2” and perhaps 130 pounds. She told me that people were afraid to say anything; even her doctor said nothing to her.  But a new doctor told her she was overweight and needed to do something about it.  She was initially embarrassed and a little angry.  But she realized the doctor was trying to help, and used the provocation to start a “medical weight loss” program, and she systematically shed the weight.  She now loves running, which she hated at the outset.  The other woman said that she had been in denial about how she had gotten to weigh well over 200 pounds.  She was running a race, totally struggling to finish, and a much older woman passed her.  It got to her.  After the race she happened to see the same woman, and the woman flat out told her (paraphrasing here): “You should really take care of yourself.  You’re overweight and you’re going to cause yourself health problems.”  

Needless to say, she also was affronted, but she got over it quickly and actually asked the woman to help her.  Sure enough the older woman took her under her wing, helped her discover running – she had been athletic back in school – and supported her as she changed her lifestyle. “I knew what I needed to do about my diet,” she told me, “I just had to commit to doing it.”  

The stories reminded me of Colin.  At the funeral home, I had told Colin’s wife Tricia about how touched and grateful Jennifer had been when Colin called her out of the blue one day – the day Jennifer had been criticized on the front page of one of the Detroit dailies.  Colin had said, “You’re being attacked from the outside, and I’m being attacked by cancer on the inside.  God gave us this for a reason.  We have to deal with this pain to help others deal with their pain.”  Jennifer was touched by his proactivity and his faith and courage.  When I recounted this story to Tricia, she thanked me and sweetly said, “Colin never did get the boundary thing.”

Everyday leaders don’t.  Mind you, overweight people don’t want every stranger crossing the invisible boundaries of decorum to holler at them to go on a diet.  And believe me, governors occasionally wish there were a semblance of a boundary when, for example, people hang out of their cars on the Mackinac Bridge and break the peace of a magnificent sunrise and a spirited 4 mile run by crying out, “Governor, fire Kwame.”   Yes, the older woman crossed the boundary, and told her truth, but screaming truth to power – as poetic as it sounds – is sometimes just too easy.  Colin and the old woman reached out not just with truth, but with compassion, too, and with action of their own.  They are heroic everyday leaders, not just because they crossed the boundaries of decorum and authority, but because they backed up their words with heart and action.

Everyday leaders cross boundaries with courage and compassion to

Lead with their best self,


  • We must thank god for those of us, like our dear Colin, who don’t operate within the boundaries of political correctness…I know too many so-called leaders who conduct themselves by walking on the fence, being oh-so-careful and unfortunately, as time goes on become less somehow, diminishing their potential and loosing the respect over time from those that they profess to lead. They no longer, lead with their best self or with integrity. I was one of the lucky ones to have known Colin and had worked with him; he was pure and all heart and I loved him for that. Let’s honor Colin each day by trying to be our true selves and not be so careful where we become ineffective leaders.

    • Hi Deb:

      Thanks for your comments regarding Colin. We were married almost 22 years and he was my partner and soul mate in every way.

      I always admired and was often fascinated by Colin’s ability to cross those boundaries with such ease and little sense of inhibition. He also believed it was his responsibility to reach out and use the pain of his cancer to provide insights to others. He believed it was his cross to bear and he worked with a sense of purpose and urgency. What a gift he was to me, my children, and the world!


      Trish Hubbell

  • I had a dear friend, Linda Mabrey, who was inflicted with liver cancer. She struggld through the chemo treatments, lost her hair, but not her sense of humor. One Wednesday evening, at choir practice, she removed her hat to exhibit a huge yellow smiley face adorning her cranium area!! We all loved it so. Her husband had painted it on her head. Linda told me once, in private, that God carefully selects certain people to use, through terrible illness, as an example of His love for all of mankind. I say all, as in christian, buddhist, muslim, etc. It is that love that I hope carries Obama into the White House. Digressing; back to Linda…..she explained to me that while in the midst of life threatening illness, you have the opportunity to shine, by example, as to how you embrace the now, and indulge the love that is within to outwardly expresss it. People will keep a closer tab on you during this time, and it gives you a great tool to mentor, educate, integrate, and as stated in the Bible, the # 1 objective, to love one another, your God, and yourself. At a Christmas Contada, we sang Linda’s fav song, “Written in Red” for her. To this day, it is one of my all time favorite gospel songs.
    Peace, and maitri.

    Proud to be born a Michigander, forever.

  • Crossing the boundary line second doesn’t beat first or third.

    Neal Roese, author of “If Only” (Random House, 2005) and a professor at University of Illinois at Champaign, recognizes the amazing resiliency and optimism people display after dusting themselves off from a bad situation.

    In speaking with high-achieving athletes, he explained, researchers found that the unhappiest people on the awards podium are usually the silver medalists. Why? Because they compare themselves to the athletes who won, and they always come up short.

    Bronze medalists, on the other hand, are surprisingly happy. Because they are often comparing downward, to those who didn’t medal at all, their thoughts run more toward, “I’m lucky I got here; I could have missed being on the podium at all.”

    When you seem to always be coming up in “second place” in your life or career challenges it may be time to consider getting up, dusting yourself off, and deciding it is time to be coached to success (more about paying attention to your intentions at:

    • No need……he just pleaded guilty and admitted his wrongdoings. At his ‘farewell speech’ he used that platform to attack the governor, I’m not sure why, except for his insistance that she has dropped the ball relative to economic and social services woes in the state. Easy to criticize, MUCH harder to offer up solutions. Regardless, as an outsider to Michigan, I think that Kwame finally took the high road in admitting his bad choice of judgement respective of several issues/situations, and is about to pay the proverbial piper.
      I hope Detroit, and Michigan, can start getting on track for repair, rejuvenation, renewal, and rejoicing. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford (just two examples of many) did much for the vitalization of Detroit, here is hoping that more iconic activity can take place in the near future.

      Proud to be born a Michigander; forever.

  • I can just picture the scene on the bridge in living color. A moment of beauty, peace and quiet reflection disturbed by a loud blast. How unfortunate that people forget that everyone, including governors, pastors, parents, doctors,teachers and political candidates need a break sometime. Seems to me there area few stories in the scriptures where Jesus needed to get away for as little solitude. So have a heart folks! Here’s hoping the people who feel free to disturb the paece are the vocal minority.

    • Yes, the need for peace and solitude! I’ve been a lifelong motorcycle nut, maybe a bit to the extreme (way too many bikes!!). My pastor was always intrigued by the variety and spectrum of my ‘current ride’…….enjoying hearing me go through the gearbox. One day, he said to me, that he was taking the MSF course and going to get his license and a bike. His wife gave him the go ahead nod on the idea. I pitched in, enthusiastically, and gave him a finely restored vintage Japanese bike. (He has since bought a bigger bike, and has loaned my gift out to others for their pleasure and experience…..a gift that keeps on gifting!!) He was overwhelmed, saying to me that he was indebted to me. I told him I did not want to hear that, because in the scheme of things, his assisting me in my spiritual walk was of more value than the bike. He later told me that getting on the bike, riding on the Parkway, lets him have privacy and gets him ‘unattached’ from his overwhelming at times duty and responsibility of pastoring a flock of 600. Yes, everyone needs a break, I’m glad to have been the impetus in this example. The church now has its own rider club!! Now if only there would be “Motorcycle ONLY” parking!! 😉

  • Women in our culture are particularly pressured to “play nice” and pretend there’s not an elephant in the room. Women who speak up, speak out, speak their truth–however carefully phrased–are often vilified and criticized and run out on a rail. Most men (present company excepted) act as if an intelligent, articulate woman is naturally to be hated and feared because in their opinion, the role of women is to be barefoot and pregnant, make the coffee, bring the slippers, bake the cookies, etc. Thus, Jennifer is roundly criticized for the effects in Michigan and worldwide for decisions made in DC and Texas. Hillary, an experienced professional with worldwide connections and respect, is not even considered for vice president. So far as I can see, women who cross this invisible boundary can expect huge penalties for leading with their best self.

  • The comments on leadership and the examples often fall upon how one perceives leadership. In the example of the Mackinaw Bridge Walk… a person yelled “Governor, Fire Kwayme.” breaking the “peace of a magnificent sunrise and a spirited 4 mile run.”

    I wonder how the Englers felt six years ago when then-campaigning-for-Governor Jennifer Granholm and her political entourage boldly decided to run past the Governor, his wife and their triplets. This broke a line in the sand and a show of respect that was part of the tradition of the Mackinaw walk for years. At the time, I found this insulting and disrespectful to the office of Governor and simply a political stunt.

    It appears, after 6 years in office, now “regular people” are not allowed access or have the opportunity to give an opinion about their thoughts to the Governor. I wonder what might have happened this year if “regular people” tried to pass the Governor’s entourage? Would that be “bold leadership?” and “not doing the boundary thing?” Somehow, I think in the minds of the Governor and the First Man, the opinion would be different.

    • Marsha,
      Thanks for sharing your candid views. I can see your point of view on the “passing lane” incident. It wasn’t a very graceful move.
      I don’t object to people sharing their political views. I don’t think it was a very good RFL this week, because I was trying to do too many things. And your objection makes that clear. My point was generally that it’s good for people to cross the boundary, but that we should do it with some sensitivity. (See paragraph one for a not-very-sensitive boundary crossing.) It’s a little risky to tell someone they’re overweight, that they shouldn’t be yelling at a two-year old, or that there’s a more humane or effective way to coach a kids’ soccer team. Maybe it was just too confusing to talk about a single overweight person on the one hand and a governor who needs to listen to 10 million people.
      What I DID mean is that it’s easy to criticize people in authority, but I think we need – when we criticize – to be willing to hold ourselves to standards of open-mindedness and action. In some ways, Kwame is such an easy target, but we all have work to do; we should all be partners in the effort to improve cities, act morally, uplift our marriages, etc.
      Lastly, people DID pass Jennifer and me, and that was totally fine. We had a great tradition of following the governor for years. Now we have a new tradition (which may only last a couple more years) where we celebrate fitness. We lost something and gained something. I kind of like it the way Jennifer has it, and maybe in 2010 Mike Cox or Dick Devos or David Brandon can see who can pass the governor by the largest margin 🙂
      Thanks again for your honest and principled reply.

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