What do people really value? Here is how to find out who the real Leaders are.

As we get ready to celebrate one of my favorite time of the year, Christmas, I thought it would be of value to talk about how I personally judge what people value and how they exhibit the leadership skills that I personally find most valuable.  Leadership is defined in many ways by many people, but in my world view a real leader is someone who makes a difference and implements change to improve a situation from where it began.  The other thing about leadership that is a real pet peeve of mine is that I find leadership to be a hands-on activity, a contact sport in some situations.  The people I see as real leaders lead by example, not by talk.  Let’s toss around a few of the best leaders I have come across or read about in my life.  Some of those I will list are people that you may have heard of while a few are people that most of you will never know or know of.

One of the first leaders I came across in my life was a friend of my family, a gentleman by the name of Joe DiRocco.  You would never know of Joe unless you lived in New York or Lincoln, IL, the town where I grew up.  Joe and his wife Ann were great people who raised their family and then retired from their jobs, but not from the community.  Joe had a great effect on me because he took a personal interest and also helped to cultivate my interest in learning, especially through reading.  Joe would always buy a book and bring it by and I never fully understood the impact of what he was doing until he had passed away and I got to be an adult.  Joe invested time and he invested in people.  I can never thank him enough for what he has done.

A second leader most will never know is a friend in Franklin, TN named Jerry Boss.      If you happen to live in our city the odds are high that you have met Jerry.  I first met him about 10 years ago when I joined the Franklin Breakfast Rotary Club.  Shortly after I became a member Jerry was our president.  Jerry liked to get things done, but he also like to have fun.  So much of what Jerry did influenced others that we have modified the Rotary 4-way test to include a fifth test, Have Fun.  Every week when we meet we go through the standard 4-way test and also add the Jerry Boss motto, Have Fun.  Jerry also had a profound impact on our family by helping my youngest son with his Eagle Scout project, a flagpole installation at the Franklin YMCA.      Jerry helped walk my son through this project and helped us get it right.  Matthew and I could never thank Jerry enough for all that he has done, but more so for what he has taught us by his example.

The last leader I will mention is someone that most of you have heard of, a young man who lived over 2000 years ago by the name of Jesus.     You may agree or disagree with what he represents and his divinity, but let me share a few reason I think he was a great leader.  Jesus came from the humblest beginning and spent the first years of his life working directly with his father in the family trade, carpentry.  Around the age of 30 he began his public ministry and he was loved by many and hated by quite a few as well.  That is a key fact to remember about leadership.  Leadership is like making an omelet; you have to break a few eggs to make the omelet and real leaders will not be endeared by everyone they come on contact with.  That change that leaders bring will be a negative to some who like things just the way they area.

The other reason I find Jesus to be an exemplary leader is that he sacrificed for those around him.  Toward the end of his life in this world he had amassed a large following and there were many who thought he was a worldly leader to be reckoned with.  He chose what was viewed by many as a less glamorous path and sacrificed his own personal gain for the benefit of many.  You may agree or disagree with what his death and resurrection would mean, but you cannot argue that he sacrificed himself so that others would be spared.

Leadership is a messy business.  Some will think that leadership is fun, but in many cases being a leader is painful and challenging.  The best leaders are those who do what they do for the benefit of others.  I mentioned just three who impacted my life personally; Joe, Jerry and Jesus.  It is my hope that you can take the time at this season of the year to reflect and think about those who have sacrificed for you.  When you do that I would encourage you to thank them personally  if you can.  Joe is no longer here, but I will definitely thank the other two.

You also need to think about who you are leading, and just what you value.  Leaders make choices by where  they spend their time.  The three examples I have listed all spent significant amounts of time doing things that made a profound impact on my life and the life of my family.  I need to make the same investment in others if I want to be known as a leader.

Are you being proactive in the lives of others?  If so, just who are they and what are you doing?

I wish you and you family the best at this special time of year.  Whether it be Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, I wish you the best!