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Our marvelous friend Jeanne Gallo invited six of her husband’s law school classmates from ’86, and Jennifer and me, and our spouses and children to their summer cottage for the 4th of July. She had no idea when she issued the invites that tragedy would intervene. Three weeks ago Jeanne’s sister found their mom in a chair, inexplicably, gone. In the heart of grief, Jeanne and her husband John didn’t hesitate to host 20 people at their cottage for five days. Jeanne planned, bought, and prepared the food for all of us. She was not referring to herself, but could have been when she told us on the way back from church last night that her mom loved St. Therese who famously said, “do small things, with great love.”
As today’s title suggests: Leadership shows up in many styles. In this case, Jeanne knows what she stands for and “aligns her actions to her values;” she models the way — one of the five practices that Kouzes and Posner highlight in their essential book on leadership. Jeanne is all about action, and we were all inspired – in popular parlance, “blown away” — by the immense generosity of her effort.
Here’s a second style, quite distinct from Jeanne’s grounded and gritty unceasing acts of love. This one involves focusing people on the vision. The exemplar is a boss, but not THE boss, or in this case The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen famously leads with visions, like “we take care of our own,” or a “leap of faith,” or echoing Moses, the Boss bellows, “and I believe in the promised land.” I just finished reading the fascinating biography, Bruce, and Springsteen seems gifted and at times burdened with the calling he feels to help people find a meaningful vision for their lives. Many have been inspired as a result. But this quote really grabbed me, because it’s not about Bruce, but about how his tour manager George Travis brought vision to his work. Biographer Peter Carlin describes Travis’ everyday leadership:
“Travis makes certain that every new crew member, or a down-in-the-dumps veteran, walks with him to the back of the arena in mid-show. Standing there, he tells them all the same thing: that between them and Bruce stand x thousand people. Among them, a small but important segment will go home with something that will be with them for their entire lives. It could be the buddies who experience something together. It could be the guy who chose this night and place to propose to his girlfriend. Being a part of this with Bruce makes you a part of what made that happen, Travis tells them. ‘And I want all the guys who work with me to take that into account,’ he says. ‘That’s what makes their job, no matter what it is, important.’”*
What characterizes YOUR style of leadership? It seems to me well worth knowing where your power lies, how you lead people to places that are good. I’d love to read your reflections, as I have shared mine in the first comment.
What’s your style when you lead with your best self?
* Bruce, Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone, 2010).
I think the best leaders are probably not perceived as leaders at all. They are the people who ask the right questions, that aren’t afraid to say “Wait a minute” or “You’re forgetting” – they encourage thinking to a sometimes hard-fought decision of pros/cons from only a conversation with them. They are the border collies that gather everyone’s thoughts and restate it into a condensed nutshell.