I watched him walk slowly across the room stopping to talk to several people. He spoke in a soft voice and actively listened to those that engaged him. He always asked questions to affirm his understanding of the conversation. You would often find him talking one on one with someone in a hallway, by a car in the parking lot, and outside of church after everyone else was long gone.
He always spoke softly, a hand on a shoulder, making eye contact. He knew your family, your boss, where you lived and often what was going on in your life. If you had a problem that needed solving you could go to his house and his wife would escort you to his study. It was a dark paneled room with bookcases full of the classics, poetry by Emerson and Thoreau. A bamboo fly fishing rod was in a glass case by the window.
He would ask you to sit in one of his leather wing-backed chairs and ask in a quiet voice how your family was and after a short conversation ask how he could help you. He would ask you questions slowly pulling your story out then sit quietly and reflect on what you told him. Afterwards, he would make a call or write a letter on very expensive stationary and tell you to take it to someone and they would help you.
He was on many boards of directors and even a president or Chairman of the Board on some. I remember him facilitating a meeting about a new bank the local businessmen were trying to form. It got a bit rowdy and he found common ground that the two sides could agree on. He was a powerful man at that time in our small but growing town. He respected the town’s tradition yet brought about a lot of innovation and change. He walked that fine line between the town’s heritage and dynamic changes, the two characteristics needed for the town to grow. He was well respected and loved by everyone for his calm approach to life, his soft-spoken words, and his devotion to the community. Without a doubt, he was a leader, an advocate for giving back to the community and helping those in need.
Point of View:
We often envision our leaders standing at the crest of a hill, hair blowing in the wind, hand pointing to the distant valley with a crowd gathered behind him. They are filled with great passion and want to charge across the valley to victory with him.
I wonder if this image is really a leader or just the loudest voice in the crowd. It is possible that a leader may be soft-spoken, kind, engaging, and a person that works behind the scenes getting things done, making a difference and giving back — a quiet leader.