When I was in the third grade I was given an assignment to interview “an important person.” In our small town and monetarily-challenged family, the most important person I could think of was my school principal.
While I can’t recall his name, the principal of my small K-12 school of about 800 students was a kind and wise man with some sort of physical disability (which might have been Muscular Dystrophy). I also think his wife was the librarian. (Whoever she was, she was also sweet and helpful.)
I remember nervously sitting down in the principal’s office for the first–but definitely not the last–time. His desk was big and intimidating and bookcases tall and full of thick-spined reference books.
My first few questions were generic, while my primary questions focused on his career and the importance of an education. I don’t remember anything he said about any of that, but his response to my last question has stuck with me for 30 years.
“What is your pet peeve?” I inquired, expecting soggy cereal or cold coffee.
“A fake person,” he said.
His answer puzzled me, so I asked him what he meant (I was only eight or nine at the time).
He said something about how people act one way but really are someone different. He talked of liars, cheaters and brown-nosers.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I sensed authenticity. This authentic man earned his level of leadership and respect through his kindness, firmness, wisdom and integrity not through pushing his positional weight around, bullying, lying or cheating.
Unfortunately, authentic men are rare these days.
For many, this week was a tough one as their hero, champion and idol has fallen. People thought he was the “real deal,” an authentic man beating the odds professionally and personally.
Success in this world is hard-fought and earned, and no one likes cheaters. I’m grieved for those who had (or still have) deep admiration for the man who built his legacy and success on a lie.
Men, this is yet another example of how we are all subject to temptation and how we all fall short of perfection. Even if we never jump from space or make this list we can give in to the temptation to be something we are not.
What we are meant to be is authentic leaders. So, let’s learn to lead from authentic leaders, like Jesus, like Jerry Jackson, like my school principal.
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