‘Noble Leadership’ --The Holiday Gift We Really Need--

December 9, 2013
Gary Micheloni
Gary Micheloni

‘Noble Leadership’
--The Holiday Gift We Really Need--

Team Leadership in 2013

Part 12

by “Coach Gary” Micheloni

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”  ― Jack London

There’s an old story that begins: “Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Billy Graham are all having dinner together…” Okay…I confess: such a story doesn’t exist; I just made it up. But if it did, you’d have to hear it, right? Well, those three men really exemplify the best in leadership examples, and we should take a close look at them.

I’m writing this column for December, to be read as the holiday season is upon us, but it’s now early in November of 2013, and these three men—their stories and ideologies and histories—have all come pouring into my mind. For different reasons, to be sure, but overall, they are all men who are very much admired. And, as Jack London has said so well, these three men have all used their available time to live, and to not just exist.

November 19th is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, which begins:

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

In just 272 simple, yet eloquent, words, Lincoln paid tribute to the more than 30,000 soldiers killed or wounded there, at Gettysburg, a mere five months earlier.

And just five weeks prior to his Address, on October 3rd, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise for the last Thursday of November, celebrating the greatness of our country.

It takes some amazing leadership to hold together a country bent on breaking itself apart, to see the moral travesty of slavery and attempt to right it, to witness the huge loss of life and treasure caused by a great Civil War. And to proclaim thanksgiving in the midst of it. Yet…he pressed on…until stopped by an assassin.

Where is our next Lincoln?

Almost simultaneously with this 150th anniversary, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. For me, it was as significant and profound a day as 911.

I was a high school senior. We had just left our morning classes to go to lunch, when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot. Someone out in the parking lot had his car door open with the radio playing, and we gathered around, waiting for word. Then came the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is dead.” Instantly…the crowd dispersed. Sporting events were canceled that weekend. The country was in mourning.

No doubt, by the time you read this, you will have seen on television and online and in the other media, scores of accounts regarding this event. And that’s good. But it certainly isn’t all, and isn’t what his leadership was all about. There are a couple of things that you need to hold onto. Full disclosure here: I’m a died-in-the-wool conservative, but JFK is someone that this boy would choose to have lead our country today!

He shepherded us through some trying times, like the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962. People forget that the world stood on the precipice of nuclear war, yet Kennedy was successful in getting Soviet missiles out of Cuba. I guess I should have expected no less. At his inauguration in 1961, he uttered this famous sentence: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

And just a few weeks prior to the missile crisis, JFK delivered his stirring speech in Texas where he proclaimed—for the whole world to hear—“We choose to go to the moon!” This was a stunning goal. (By the way, to hear just this part of it, google the term: ‘leading your team thru absolutely anything’, and you’ll be taken to a YouTube video I did where I quoted him. Go to about the 38 minute mark in the webcast, and you’ll catch the part where JFK talks about this challenge.) We forget, now, but back then, the U.S. was NOT the leader in space exploration. And his goal was that we would get there first! Pretty bold stuff.

Like Lincoln, he committed treasure to this quest, just as he pledged American might to stand up against Soviet aggression. He did the right thing until he, too, was assassinated.

Is there another JFK on the way?

Billy Graham was not a president of the U.S., but a great leader IN the U.S., nonetheless. His simple title was that of an evangelist. He spoke at ‘crusades’, live, in front of an estimated 210 million people over time. He has very active for 60 years, and is being honored this year with more than a few TV programs—again—just as I am writing this column.

And yet, when he was first starting out, here is how that went. According to Mr. Graham, at his very first crusade, he had four sermons that he knew, and he gave all four of them in about 10 minutes! To go from that point, to speaking before stadiums full of people, and doing it well, is incredible.

But here is the reason I include him as an excellent example of leadership. Over this period of time, he has never (to my knowledge) been singled out by anyone else as some kind of a hypocritical religious leader. Nothing immoral. No complaints. Not even after 60 years—pretty amazing.

As a matter of fact, early on he and his team developed guidelines to prevent this. They nicknamed these guidelines the ‘Modesto Manifesto’, because it was conceived in a small motel room in the town of Modesto, many decades ago. The members of his team all agreed that they would do everything possible to avoid even the appearance of impropriety: to that extent, Graham would never even be alone in an elevator with a woman, or have dinner with one, other than his wife!

Similarly, that’s how all of the finances of the ministry were handled—very conservatively and very publicly. No funny business; no outrageous spending.

Will new Billy Graham’s come forward—not just in the areas of religion, but business and government, as well? We need some.

Let’s bring this back to us, present day, okay? What’s it all mean? I can hear you out there saying, “Hey Coach, I’m not preaching sermons or launching any rockets or making historical addresses. How does this affect me?” Glad you asked, because I don’t want you to miss this.

Maybe you’ve got a tiny, little company. So, like Billy Graham, work on your craft and grow your ‘four little sermons’ to something much larger, where you are serving more people, and serving them better. You’re not launching a rocket to the moon, but you could sure as heck engineer some better systems inside your company to help you deliver better customer service, couldn’t you?

And even though you are not going toe-to-toe with the old Soviet Union, you might be able to refine your customer service to the point where your goal is that you only under promise and then over deliver. That would make you a star in your industry, wouldn’t it? Pretty radical. Kind of noble, if you ask me.

It’s about time, isn’t it, for both our country and our businesses to have some ‘noble’ leadership? I’m not sure where it’ll be coming from for you, but I do know this: it’s incredibly important that you have a hand in it, whether that be at the local level in your community, how you run your business, or how you bring honor to your family and profession. The old saying remains, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

President Lincoln closed his Address like this:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I close my little address to you this way: This holiday season, remember the big picture, what it’s all about. Live by your principles, even when it’s hard. People will remember and reward you if you do. Be that guy or gal. Be solid. Don’t just exist. Live.

Be noble.

Coach Gary’s Corner: What’s your plan to move forward and into next year? Are you marketing your company, driving business to it, or are you just hoping that you’ll find it? Write Coach Gary at Business development & marketing coaching will help you get there in less time, and with more success. Ask Coach Gary to speak for your group, association or convention, or even to coach your company? You can at least ask! Coach Gary’s first book, “Get Paid for a Change!” is available at Pick it up there; change your business.

Gary Micheloni is a construction company marketer, working project manager, speaker, author, consultant…and a coach.

Copyright 2013 Gary Micheloni