Popular views of leaders focus primarily on positional leadership. Those of us in the Lead Change community prefer to focus on character-based leadership, which enables anyone to become a leader, regardless of their station in life, simply by the actions they take and the effect they have on the people around them.
Many of my dear friends in the Lead Change community know that I lost my beloved boyfriend recently. They have rallied around me, supporting me, praying for me, and encouraging me, and I’ll be forever thankful for that…
Frank Taylor died in mid-October at the age of 60. We were just beginning our journey together, but planned on it being a long and fruitful one. Within a very short time, we’d each discovered the person we’d been waiting for, our soul mate, “The One.” So to lose him so suddenly and unexpectedly has been hard for me to bear. Yet it’s been an eye-opening experience in leadership to me as well, as I’ve come to see this man that I love through other people’s eyes.
I knew the things that attracted me to Frank. He was smart, had a quirky sense of humor that I enjoyed, loved our God deeply and unreservedly, and had a tender heart filled with lots of pain and even more love. He was a man of integrity and moral values, and that was reflected in the way he lived his life.
Shortly after leaving college, he began two volunteer pursuits that reflected this character. He became an auxiliary state police officer in the state of Connecticut, and he became a certified instructor in both First Aid and CPR for the American Red Cross.
Later in life, Frank became moderator to a Yahoo Group that’s part of the ReUseIt Network. This group enables people who have stuff they no longer need to connect with people who need the things they have, thereby keeping perfectly usable things out of the landfills. The benefits ultimately are three-fold; financial (people are saving money), environmental (usable things aren’t thrown away), and humanitarian (people who can’t afford everyday items get a hand up). [If you aren’t a part of a ReUsetIt Network or Freecycle community, I’d highly recommend checking to see if there’s one in your area.]
Besides these activities, Frank was involved in a number of other clubs and organizations. After his death, I started receiving e-mails and calls from people whose lives he’d effected.
I’d already witnessed his altruism myself. There was the time he followed someone into their driveway at night just so that he could let them know their tail-light was out. And the time he returned to a store a couple of days after receiving exceptional customer service, just to inform the store manager about it. He’d also provided someone with a cell phone that he carried on his plan because she was going through a tough time and needed someone to talk to.
But now I started hearing other stories. There was someone who needed help with a home remodeling project due to a recent handicap of a family member. Help was there when it was needed. There were people who couldn’t keep their beloved pets because they couldn’t feed them anymore. Suddenly pet food was at their door. Someone else’s WeedWacker died. Frank volunteered to fix it. There was the person who was facing foreclosure because they were so far behind on their mortgage. The bill was paid to bring them current. There was the colleague who met her first true love when Frank brought his best friend home from college.
There were people in need who found whatever it was that they needed, whether it was help paying a utility bill or buying school clothes for their kids. And there were people going through tough times who found a willing ear in Frank or someone to pass the time with.
Each person I heard from told me of the impact Frank had had on their lives, and how much he would be missed. Through his years of servant leadership, Frank had amassed a following of friends who each mourn his passing. While he had his faults, and I’m well aware of them, just think of the legacy he built with his giving heart and quiet generosity!
He didn’t set out to build a following or become a leader. He believed that the greatest servant leader of them all, Jesus Christ, called upon each one of us to be our brother’s keeper, and that’s what he set out to do, one person at a time.
Leadership isn’t a noisy thing. That’s stardom. Leadership is about connecting with people who ultimately share a vision or a goal, and working together to reach it… And giving isn’t a seasonal thing best reserved for the holidays. Giving of your time, efforts, talent and money is pure servant leadership that creates the legacy of a lifetime.