I find it interesting that so much is written about leadership these days but so few real leaders exist. As I continue to read all the latest theories on this always popular subject, it occurs to me that most of what I needed to know was taught to me in the 18 years I had with my grandfather, Guy McClintick.
He moved to north central Minnesota in the winter of 1921 and proceeded to carve out a living with a small fishing resort, until his death in 1972. The man was a natural-born leader and I was privileged to share his name and learn at his side for 18 summers. He wasn’t much for talking unless it was important to be specific and that rubbed off on me completely. He didn’t need to say much because his actions were always quite obvious. If he was carrying a shovel, we were going to dig vegetables. If he had his rifle, we were going to shoot a varmint. If he had his ax, we were going to chop wood or cut down a tree. If he started the old decrepit station wagon, we were going to haul firewood or pick up the garbage. If he had a can of gas, we were going to mow the grass or maybe go trolling for walleye. If he had a clean pressed shirt on, we were going to town. If he had a tie on, we were going to church. If he was sitting in his easy chair in the living room smoking a pipe and listening to the Twins game, he wanted some time for himself. His actions always spoke louder than his words.
The man was a marvel of ingenuity, dedication, honesty, work ethic and American values. Leadership wasn’t a concept to him, it was a way of life. He knew his job was to steer the ship and take care of his crew/family. There was never any equivocation in his actions or his words. His every thought was centered around taking care of his responsibilities and leaving nothing to chance. He was always the first to admit his mistakes and immediately fix the problem. I don’t think I ever heard him blame someone else or circumstances beyond his control. Whatever cards were dealt to him, he played them well.
I was ten years old when I finally got my chance to help him with his chores. The first time I got to split wood with an ax was a day I will never forget. He never said a word when I missed the log and came down hard on the handle. He just backed me up a bit and let me try again. As I whacked away and worked up a good sweat, he just kept picking up more logs until I asked to stop. His highest praise was a simple, “That’s enough for today. Thanks for your help.” I’ve never been more proud of myself than that day, especially when he said, “Let’s take the afternoon off and go fishing.” He was the very first motivational genius I ever knew and he could get me to do anything my 70 pound frame could handle. If he had told me to dive off the dock and snag that huge turtle, I probably would have tried. I believe in Jesus but it was my grandfather who taught me how to be a good disciple and why we must follow before we can lead.
Real leaders don’t need a college education to get where they’re going. All they need is a chance to make a difference for others. In order to achieve their goals, they take responsibility and give credit. They have absolute principles that guide every decision. They have the right tools for every job. They never complain but they always explain. They are the first to volunteer and the last to give up. They are motivated by everything except popularity. They lead because they know someone has to and they take that responsibility seriously. They are easy to follow because they inspire us to greatness.
I’m not against any current leadership theories but this much I know, if you don’t possess the basic skills my grandfather taught me, then all the other techniques don’t matter, even a little. Being a good leader is the hardest job anyone will ever have and it’s not the least bit glamorous. It will humble you in more ways than you can count and when you die all you will have to show for your efforts is the number of leaders that you helped create. When that day comes, however, you will enjoy a sense of accomplishment that is worth every ounce of energy you expended to get it.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.