George Herbert Walker Bush

The loss of a good leader is lamented for many reasons. Never though do I recall a leader who, after he died, was extolled less for what he did, and more for who he was.

George H. W. Bush was a man of many extraordinary accomplishments – just one of which was serving as president of the United States. But in the already exhaustive  coverage of his life and legacy what was repeatedly emphasized were not his remarkable political achievements but his extraordinary personal attributes.

In a book I wrote years ago titled Reinventing Leadership I composed a list of those characteristics that were most highly prized in both the literature on leadership in business and the literature on leadership in government.

The list of traits included:

  • Empathy and insight
  • Experience and expertise
  • Well-adjusted and interpersonally skilled
  • High level of activity and drive for achievement
  • High tolerance for stress and uncertainty

The list of values included:

  • Integrity
  • Curiosity
  • Stability
  • Self-knowledge
  • Respectful and inclusive of others

I also listed strategies employed by leaders who were widely admired. They included:

  • Envisioning
  • Collaborating
  • Listening
  • Coalition Building
  • Unifying

Bush embodied the lot. He was that rare thing – a real role model. He personified those qualities that we – the American people – profess most to want our leaders to exemplify. Humanity. Honesty. Decency.

Which raises the inevitable question: Why have we been willing to settle for so much less – what’s wrong with us?!



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