Rural Water - Quarter 3, 2013 - (Page 41)
Throwing My Loop…
BY MICHAEL JOHNSON
What is that? Leadership…what does
that mean? At one time, I knew. I knew
all about it. But like Dylan said in a
song once, “I was so much older then.”
Years ago – in the eighties – I taught
in a graduate engineering program
conducted jointly by the Department
of Defense and Texas A&M University.
One of my subjects was leadership,
and I thought I did a good job. My
lectures included such topics as inventory, proﬁt and loss, delegation, planning, organizing, decision-making
and more. I thought my words, lesson
plans and tests had value. It comes to
me now that I should send all those
students their money back. I never
taught them anything about leadership at all.
Fast forward with me 25 years. At a
recent conference this year, instead of
“telling” the participants about leadership, I asked them to tell me about it –
to share an experience when a “leader”
came into their lives. For fun, I offered
10 bucks to anyone who would share
their story about when someone made
them better – when someone made
them more. The ﬁrst hand that went up
belonged to young man sitting in the
front row. He was about 30 or so – a
nice looking fellow with the body of an athlete.
“When I was 17,” he began, “I went to Yellowstone to work for
the summer. The boss I was assigned to didn’t like me from the
ﬁrst moment he saw me. I didn’t know why, but I just knew…this
fellow didn’t like me at all.”
Sure enough, the young man’s intuition proved correct. The
boss yelled at him on the ﬁrst day, cursed him on the second, wrote
him up twice on the third and reported him to the park rangers
three times by the end of the ﬁrst week.
“I spent a miserable weekend full of dread,” he said. “I arrived
early at the work site that following Monday morning knowing I
would be ﬁred, but to my surprise, there was someone else already
there. An old cowboy stood waiting…and he was waiting on me.
He said, ‘You’ll be with me from now
on.’” And the young man telling the
story paused. We knew he was ﬁghting emotion.
“We spent the rest of the summer
in that beautiful place,” he said. “The
old fellow didn’t say much. When he
told me to do something, he might say
I did okay, and if I didn’t, he would
show me how to ﬁ x my mistake. I was
just a kid, but he didn’t treat me like
one. He asked me where I was from
and why I was there. He would point
out an eagle or an elk on occasion
that I would have never seen unless he
made me aware of their presence. At
the end of each day, he would say, ‘See
you tomorrow, son.’ And he called
me by my name.” The young fellow
“Over the course of that summer, I
changed from a boy to a man. I began
to believe in myself, and that old
fellow had something to do with all
that. On the day I left, he came to say
good-bye. He told me I would do well
in life, and that I had some sense, and
that he wished the best for me. Now
all these years later,” he continued,
“I still think about him sometimes. I
ﬁnd myself being so grateful to him.
I would like to give him something in return. I wish I could ﬁnd
him and give him my thanks, my loyalty, my gratitude, and my
…” He stopped again.
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this in front of people I don’t
even know, but I wish I could send him my love…and if I heard
of his passing, I would try to get to him before they put him in
the ground.” Then he said, “And that’s my story about when a
“leader” came in my life - when someone made me better – when
someone made me more. That’s what leadership is…when people
do that to us.”
And he sat down.
Ain’t it a shame I didn’t tell my students that.
Third Quarter 2013 • 41
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Water - Quarter 3, 2013
FROM THE PRESIDENT
PROJECTS THAT START IN RURAL AMERICA TOUCH THE LIVES OF ALL AMERICANS
WHAT DOES RURAL MEAN?
PROTECTING THE LAND
THE POWER OF AN ASSOCIATION
OLD CONSERVATION IDEA STILL IN VOGUE
THROWING MY LOOP
INDEX TO ADVERTISERS/ ADVERTISERS.COM
FROM THE CEO
Rural Water - Quarter 3, 2013
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