Monday, January 16, 2017
Leadership: A grandfather reflects on walking the talk
I often reflect on this small piece of writing from Max De Pree when I am concerned about how I should be doing my job. I hope you enjoy it too!
Esther, my wife, and I have a grand-daughter named Zoe, the Greek word for “life”. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound, seven ounces, so small that my wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulders. The neonatologist who first examined her told us that she had a 5 to 10 percent chance of living three days. When Esther and I scrubbed up for our first visit and saw Zoe in her isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, she had two IVs in her navel, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest, and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth.
To complicate matters, Zoe’s biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realising this, a wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave me my instructions. “For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I would like you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.”
Ruth was doing exactly the right thing on Zoe’s behalf (and, of course, on my behalf as well), and without realising it she was giving me one of the best possible descriptions of the work of a leader. At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice with one’s touch.
Foreword in Max de Pree (1991) Leadership Jazz (my edition was published in 1991. ISBN 1 86350 101 0)