John McCain, a true American Hero, has passed. While the nation prepares for his funeral services, I wanted to take a moment and highlight leadership lessons learned from one of the nation's all-time great leaders. He left his mark in the world...and, as leaders, it is up to us to carry the mantle he has established. While we are not in the business of politics, he lived a life that allows us as school leaders to learn from- grow from, and apply to our running of schools.
Perhaps the thing I appreciated most about John McCain was his ability to work with and relate to all people regardless of political affiliation. Although his party was Republican, he was first and foremost a man of character and conviction. He did not simply vote the party line because that was the expectation. Rather, McCain sought to do what was right for the good of the nation, regardless of party affiliation. He was a patriot. Above all else, he was an American.
My wife and I were lamenting the other night as the news reported on his death. We both commented that probably the thing to us, having never met Mr. McCain, the facet of his life and death that would have the greatest impact on our lives is he was a connector- and he was willing to cross party lines to connect. He was not divisive. He was not bombastic. Rather, he cared about this nation and his fellow Americans. He did all this in spite of party affiliation. Sadly, politics in America has taken on a new face. It is polarizing. It is divisive. And, without his leadership and mentoring, our concern is this type of civility is gone.
So, as leaders in our schools, what lessons can we take away from his life? How can we take the leadership he exhibited for years and make our schools better? First and foremost, we can do this by connecting with our staff. And by connecting, I do not mean with just those who share your philosophy or passions. Naturally, it is easy to gravitate towards those who agree with us or are in our corner. But, as leaders, we are called to connect with all. After all, leadership is about connecting. Effective leadership is about being a leader to all your people, not just some.
As Senator McCain showcased, he was a man of integrity, ideals, and values. As a leader, it is imperative you determine what your core values are- and never deviate from those. Stay true to yourself- stay true to your passions and convictions- and, most importantly, never stop fighting for what is right for our kids. Senator McCain laid a path for us; let us take his leadership lessons and carry on his legacy. Our next generation depends on it.
Rest in Peace Mr. McCain. You have left a legacy. You fought for our nation...and your fight will continue. We are forever grateful for you and the sacrifices you have made over the course of your life.
"Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone."- John McCain