One More Thought Inspired By McCain



“There are people whose leadership cannot be measured in their lifetime,” –Nancy Koehn, Harvard leadership professor and author.

Professor Koehn was speaking about Sen. John McCain who passed last month at the age of 81.

Rebel. Maverick. Patriot. War hero. McCain was all that and more.

His passing reminded us of what we have in common, what binds us together as Americans.

Democrats and Republicans rushed to praise Sen. McCain and for good reason. He was a special type of leader who spent a lifetime in service to his country.

We are living in age where service is either ignored or disparaged and that is not only wrong it’s deeply damaging.

We are attacking institutions, ideals and the notion of service through labels (“career politician”), irresponsible social media posts and by excusing reprehensible behavior as necessary to shake up a broken system.

We lose an awful lot when we allow these social spasms to pass without comment. We risk the loss of a common purpose and mission. We gamble with the loss of important standards and ideals and we put at risk the ability to take pride in our nation and its achievements when we trade decency for short term political gain or retribution.

Senator McCain’s passing reminds us how important it is to attract and retain serious people in service to our country.

I would argue that goes for cities and communities as well.

We need to attract and retain talent on the local level in order to build better communities for everyone.

I have always been enamored of leadership. I’ve seen what it can do to change a place—be it a neighborhood, a non-profit, a city or a business.

As a result, I’ve kept a close eye on leaders and watched to see how they make positive change occur and more importantly last.

But the importance of leadership never wanes, even when (maybe especially when) you achieve success. There is always a need to fill the pipeline with talented, dedicated and effective leaders.

If you fail to fill the pipeline no lead is safe. You will regress. If you fill the pipeline and view the development of people as the most important mission in the world than you will guarantee progress and success.

It’s a simple concept. But very hard to put into place.

So when I see cities, businesses, non-profits, neighborhood associations or schools regress it’s almost always a leadership issue. The symptoms vary, but the root cause is usually the same.

Every endeavor has its blips, setbacks, mistakes, errors etc., good leadership figures it out and overcomes.