Elmer worked for a school in a variety of roles – I’m not sure if he even had a job title…none could do justice to the scope of his duties anyway. The school started with pre-kindargarten and went through 12th grade.
He took care of facility maintenance, the cleaning and the minor fixin’ to keep everything presentable and functional.
He also drove the bus, bringing the kids back and forth to school as well as on the various school field trips. The kids always arrived safely and were well behaved on his bus.
Elmer tended the boilers to heat the school and provide the hot water. The old boilers were cantankerous, but he would talk to the boilers about ‘acting right’, bang on a pipe or two, and work his magic to keep the building toasty warm no matter what was happening outside.
He could patch up a broken ‘thingamajig’ to get up and running again, and could repair anything without aid of the manual or even the proper replacement parts.
An endearing quality of his was giving directions – Elmer knew how to get anywhere and was happy to share his directions with you in detail…however, he always forgot one turn, usually toward the end of the journey, so we knew that we would have an expected ‘unexpected tour’ of the area before we found the desired location.
However, while his efforts kept the facilities and logistics humming along, Elmer was most noted for his leadership. He had no formal designation as leader, but he was always at the head of any crisis – first one to begin addressing the issue, taking action, creating a plan, helping others slip in to appropriate roles to bring things back to balance and normalcy, and Elmer was usually the last one to leave once the situation had been brought under control.
He always had a good word for the students, asking about their accomplishments, and when needed, a blunt word or two – a verbal ‘kick in the butt’ – to motivate a student that was not striving to achieve their potential.
Elmer never missed a graduation – be it a kindergarten class moving forward to first grade, or a class advancing from lower school to upper school, or the big one – high school graduation. In coat and tie, he was in the back of the auditorium giving a ‘thumbs up’ sign and smile as each of the students received their diploma, and his applause seemed seemed to be the loudest in the hall.
Not surprisingly, when graduated students returned to school for a visit, the first person they would find was Elmer – to share their latest accomplishments, and their appreciation.
He was a leader of men, women, and children, each of whom followed his lead enthusiastically, without need for designated authority or the mantle of a formal title.
Personally, I learned a great deal about leadership by simply following him around, and his influence continues to guide me today. Elmer was a great man, a wonderful individual – so accomplished and meaningful to so many people.
While few organizations have such a special individual as Elmer, many have a ‘go to’ person who helps to keep things running smoothly while helping others grow and learn, all without benefit official acknowledgment or formal authority. Like Elmer, they are natural leaders…support and nurture them.
Want more? See the Final Frontier for insight and ideas.