I never doubted John's humanity for a moment. He was anything but perfect, and even had a few quirks that drove me bats. Who do you know that doesn't like popcorn? So it isn't hero-worship that he inspired in me. No, John was not an idol-in-the-making. Short in stature, ordinary in looks, engaging in personality - he was simply authentic and humble, completely unafraid of revealing his warts or allowing another to take a bow. He and I had many a disagreement, and often I was taken back when he would suddenly sit back in his inimitable way and proclaim, "you're right." You just have to know that I didn't HAVE to be right, but the fact that he gave as much ground as he captured at times always left me feeling valued in ways I find difficult to describe. Better still was the manner in which he handled those times that I wasn't right, or when he chose to exercise his executive privilege in a particular decision. Firm and decisive, he managed to demonstrate a high regard for the opposing stance or idea with gracious warmth too. I still marvel: How'd he do that?
It was during my tenure as a business professional that I found myself musing more-and-more on the concepts associated with leadership in general, John's leadership in particular. With ever-increasing demands on my work life, I eventually graduated to a significant role that entailed a huge budget, governing three entire departments, and managing 26 people. Nothing in my upbringing had prepared me for so daunting a challenge, but God saw fit to place John a few paces ahead of me to demonstrate "how to" walk that path.
John never said so, but I know he was thorough in assessing his own leadership. I imagine him asking questions like these:
Where am I going?
Who's following me?
Why are they following me?
Where am I leading them?
Where do they want me to lead them?
Who am I following?
Where am I?
He knew where he was. He knew where he needed to go. He was all about the planning in between, and always taking into account the people that followed. He never asked that we travel the Yellow Brick Road to some vague or unreal destination. I copied his style.
Thank you, John. I never had to make excuses or apologies for you, or regret the methods or mapping you crafted for those of us coming behind you. But you're still wrong about the popcorn!
John is at the head of this table,
wearing the magician' cap.
He was and is a man loved by all!
(That's me, nearest on the right.)