My mother taught me that you can learn something from everyone you meet and everything you read or hear. It may be inspiring, thought-provoking, or something to avoid, but every one offers value.
One of the people who impacted me most in my youth was my Boy Scout leader in Hillsboro, OH. If you just met him, your first impression may be that he is an older gentleman. But when you got to know him, you would quickly learn that his life was a history lesson.
Lawson Walker had many accomplishments during his life. He was the first in Highland County, Ohio to earn Eagle Scout, and he fought in the army during World War One. He was the first person besides my mother and father who introduced me to local and regional leaders. And he was the one who showed me how vital knowing history was, and that was where my love of learning history and leadership came from. He inspired me to always be open to learning.
As I shared in my blog last week, Who Matters, one of the things I loved most about my time with my first mentor was when he invited me to lunch or dinner. Sometimes I had the honor to meet some of his peers; other times, we had those heart-to-heart conversations.
During one of those one talks, he shared with me the time he met President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. He shared that President Roosevelt was charismatic, approachable, focused, and optimistic like he had heard on the radio. He told me he could feel President Roosevelt’s passion for being President and helping people. President Roosevelt was inspirational.
When Ronald Reagan was running for reelection, he made a stop in Charlotte, NC. I was just out of college, but he was the first president I voted for. I had the opportunity to see other presidents, but this was the first time I had the chance to see one that I could vote for. When I attended his rally, President Reagan was charismatic and optimistic, as I saw on TV. I left that rally inspired and seeing how impactful a true leader could be.
In the mid-1990s, one day, I was playing golf with a friend. As we were coming up on the 10th tee, we suddenly stopped as a couple of golf carts approached the tee, along with a few people walking. We didn’t know what was going on, but a gentleman asked if they could play through. When I turned around, I saw President Bill Clinton approaching.
At first, I had that feeling in my stomach you got when something big is about to happen. He and one of his secret security people came to the tee. President Clinton looked at us, thanked us for allowing him to play through, and shook my hand.
In 1992, I did not support President Clinton and his policy stances, but I have to admit, when I met him, he could make you feel like he knew you, cared about you, and truly wanted to make your life better. I knew he was a politician, but I immediately realized how he connected with many people and became president. He was charismatic and was his approach was inclusive.
As my mother taught me, you can learn something from everyone you meet, even if you may disagree with them. Leaders know and practice this.
What I learned from Scoutmaster Walker was leaders need to know history. As you probably have heard, George Santayana’s quote, ” Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
What I learned from my mentor’s story about President Roosevelt is that leaders are approachable and focused.
What I learned from seeing and reading about President Ronald Reagan was leaders are charismatic and optimistic.
And what I learned by meeting President Clinton is that a leader needs to share what they care about, why they want to do it and why you should also care about it, and why you also should want to help with the mission. Rally people to have passion for the mission.
Many lessons were demonstrated and learned from the Miracle on the Hudson. Some are self-evident. Some are more sublime. One of those more sublime lessons was how leaders stepped up during a time of crisis.
That day on the Hudson River, leaders were in the cockpit, in the cabin, and during the rescue. One thing that was demonstrated was that leaders don’t need to know everything about the situation but do need to know how to rally people to the cause and mission.
As you may know, I went out the right side of the plane, at 10F. On the right side of the plane, there were no crew members. The crew member that would normally be there was injured during the crash landing. The right side of the plane was managed and led by passengers who had no training in how to manage something of this magnitude. But as I have learned, leaders that understand history, are approachable, optimistic and can quickly articulate the mission, why they want to accomplish it, why others should care and be a part of the mission, can accomplish anything, even a Miracle. This is what happened on January. 15,2009 in the Hudson River.
Turning turmoil into Triumph.
If you speak with my team, they will tell you that I rarely turn down a call. Yes, it’s time-consuming, and some people only have their motives, but more often than not, I learn something from each conversation, positive or negative, that I can use to impact others and make progress toward my mission. I want to be approachable and optimistic and be able to share my mission to hopefully encourage others to understand why they should want to be a part of it and help me.
Leadership does matter.
You can learn many lessons from those you agree with or may not. Don’t take anyone for granted. People and lessons come into your life for a reason and a purpose, and they will serve you. Take time to read, listen and learn about the past. Be approachable, stay optimistic, and be able to articulate what is important to you, why it’s essential, and why others should care and be a part of your mission, and you will be on your way to being the inspired leader you were born to be, and making significant progress towards your mission, knowing that all the Moments in your life, Matter!