Mozelle was a shopkeeper. Clifford was a master jeweler, watch repairman, and part time sheep rancher. John was a farmer. Odell worked at the county courthouse. Jack was a grocer, Millie a nurse. Irene was a teacher, Roy a car dealer. Ordinary citizens, all of them, little known by anyone much beyond the small local community where they resided most of their lives, yet every one of them was a leader by the truest definition of the word.
Just so you know, it is not from sudden attacks of nostalgia that I am sometimes inclined to reminisce about my small hometown and the people such as these who were the heroes of my youth – no, not at all. As fond as I am of these memories in fact, I do not care to go back. Rather, it is because that small West Texas village represented a microcosm of real life in the real world such that even in this complex and sophisticated society we live in I have yet to encounter a life, family, or business situation that did not relate back in some way to a similar experience from that place and time. Furthermore, I’ve yet to observe an elected official, civic leader, corporate CEO, or anyone in any position of authority more capable and effective in their respective roles as leaders than those ordinary folks I just named.
Leadership is not about any authority we are given or power we might wield. It is not about what we do for a living, the family we were born into, where we live, or what we have. It is not about our success, education, knowledge, or talent. It has little to do with the results of our doing, but it has everything to do with the character of our being.
The names I mentioned are examples of people of great character who willingly bore the responsibility of caring for their neighbors, fellow citizens, and the world around them. They saw their life purpose as being greater than simply tending to their own well-being. They were role-models for selfless living – trustworthy, responsible, and dependable. It was by their very character that others were influenced to follow them. Many of us still do. And that’s what made them great leaders, all of them – by the truest definition of the word.