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Be a leader!

This simple statement is not what it seems at first.  I quote this from a frequent family exhortation by parent to child in the Kemp clan, going back several generations.  The late Jack Kemp, famous as quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and later as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development then Vice Presidential candidate, told this story about his mom, as he continued the tradition with Jack’s now-grown family.

Managing_force“Be a leader!” each would say as they sent their offspring out into the world each morning.  As Jack explained it, the call was not for his children to lead in the traditional sense, but to enable others to grow and prosper – the definition of true servant leadership.

This short statement is a reminder of what it means to be a great leader – to focus upon the welfare and growth of one’s peers and subordinates.

[ Email readers, continue here…]  Think of what internalizing that and making it true would do in this business world.  There would be no office politics, no suspicion of the intent or hidden agenda about management, no wasted time protecting that part of the anatomy we must protect when making many of our decisions in management.

Used in this context, servant leadership turns the leadership pyramid upside down, causing each level nearer the customer to have more empowerment to serve the customer than the level formerly above it.  Nordstrom, Zappos, and an increasing number of retail-centric companies practice this religiously.   It may not be appropriate for your enterprise at this time or in this niche, but it certainly is always appropriate in your family and social lives.

“Be a leader!”

  • Growing up in Buffalo, I had many reasons to celebrate Jack Kemp. He truly demonstrated servant leadership in everything he did in and around the community.

    I can add one favorite story about Jack Kemp. My across-the-street neighbor growing up was a newspaper photographer that also did the publicity photos for the Buffalo Bills. He took exciting action shots of the running backs surging forward with the ball tucked safely away under their arms. Kemp who was the Bills QB noticed this and asked if he could do an action running pose as well. My neighbor said, Jack, you’re the quarterback, you don’t run. Kemp replied, “Yes I do, have you ever been to one of our games?” My neighbor, without missing a beat replied, “Why yes I have, so OK, start running backwards…” 🙂

  • Diane Ratican

    You are so awesome! You know that I totally believe that is what a real leader is and should be.

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