Leaders Sometimes Stand Alone

Friends,
 
Today’s lighthearted reflection begins with a story. I was sitting almost directly beneath my wife as she delivered the State of the State speech last week. Jack, our 9 year old son was next to me and our girls were next to him. We rose in standing ovation from time to time as we felt – as much as saw – the crowd about us rising to welcome a particularly good line or powerful point. Proud of my wife. Proud of their mom. Happy to support her.
 
About halfway into the speech, amidst the policy meat and potatoes, Jennifer delivered a line about how she will create a crash program to train 500 nurse trainers, who in turn will train 3,000 new nurses. For some reason, unbeknownst to us, Jack vaulted to his feet, clapping thunderously. I glanced at him, amused. One of his sisters did what siblings do at times like this, saying, “Jack, what are you doing standing up? You’re the only one standing.” 
 
He stole quick glances, realized he was having an “emperor’s new clothes moment” and slid back down into his chair. Just as he was sinking though, I was rising as were many folks around me. Some might have arisen because they were hospital advocates or fired up about this program to retrain workers, but I’m pretty sure most of us were rising to give Jack some cover. It felt like the strange, silent movement of a herd encircling a brash young one who’d ventured out past the herd’s safe boundaries. 
 
In the car, we joked about it. Jack’s very good natured and took the ribbing with grace and laughter. With apologies for my need to find a lesson in — well, just about everything — I told Jack and his sisters: hey, that’s what leaders do. They stand up. And I pointed out to them that that’s what followers do, too: they stand. People are impressed with courage and independence and they will rise, even if they’re not so fired up about something, but just because a leader cares so much. 
 
We’re still trying to figure out just what lit Jack’s fuse, but in the meantime we’re thanking him for a good laugh and a live example of the courage to
 
Lead with your best self,
 
Dan