Each RFL concludes with the simple, hopefully provocative line: “lead with your best self.” There’s always a choice about what self you’ll be – in every precious, present moment. Your best self is an ethical self that chooses the right thing because it’s the right thing. Your best self is a courageous self. Courage, especially for those “everyday leaders” who appear to be followers, who have titles like assistant or deputy, receptionist or associate, teenager or middle child, or first man, which always means second person :). Gosh, there’s a lot of titles for a lot of everyday leaders. Our best self steps up through these roles, when we’re not paid to, not expected to, or in some cases not welcome to speak, to act, or to lead. Conversely, for authorized leaders leading with your best self sometimes means doing the right and courageous thing by admitting you don’t know, asking for help, or giving away your power.
Maybe what’s most true of “leading with your best self” is that it’s your authentic best self. Which brings me to Colin. Colin Hubbell. Perhaps 10% of you know Colin. Maybe some of you who do, don’t know that he died on Thursday night; sorry to bear that sad news. Our first question when we hear someone has died always seems to be “how old was s/he?” – as we gauge ourselves against a lost comrade. We’re quietly relieved when they are older than us, as it means we “should” be safe for a while, but we are more troubled when they’re younger than us. Colin was only 49. So, for many of us he rings the bell of urgency. For those of us on the senior side of 49, we’re piercingly reminded, as Colin told many of us in his 2-1/2 year battle with cancer: Each day is a gift, never a guarantee.
Colin Hubbell exquisitely led with his best self – his real, authentic self. Colin was a white, professional father of four who lived in and loved Detroit, when others were complaining and fleeing. He worked for the buttoned-down Mayor Archer, and he supported and befriended the so-called hip-hop Mayor Kilpatrick. He rode his bike 15 miles to work and then to meetings, any season of the year. Like all great best-self leaders he saw people as individuals, not as types; he would reach out to anyone and was not fooled by appearances. He ran a sub-3-hour marathon, but seemed to take greater delight in Trish, his wife’s midlife running craze. He loved his alma mater Catholic Central, but sent his sons to rival U of D High. He developed lofts in mid-town Detroit and sold them when people said he was crazy and it couldn’t be done. He talked openly with his associates, friends, and even children about his bladder (then bone, then liver) cancer. He was at moments positively defiant. He laughed at the drugs that made him loopy. And he was not afraid to say he was scared and to cry. He was always real. WYSWWHW – what you saw was what he was. He knew he was mortal. He was real every minute, which we’re reminded is all we have. Lots of us thought Colin was crazy. You never knew what might come out of his mouth. But you never doubted that it was Colin’s view – nobody’s else’s.
Colin Hubbell was Colin Hubbell. Thinking of this man I loved and admired makes me ask myself: Am I being the Dan Mulhern that only I can be, or am I squandering that chance? And you? No one else has the chance or inkling of what it’s like to be you. Are you trying to please others, worried about their critiques, afraid of their silent judgment, fitting in with them, and thus missing the chance to be the best you you can be? What a tragedy to live someone else’s life, to try to be what others want you to be, and to miss the chance to be the unique and marvelous you, to truly
Lead with YOUR best self!