December 5, 2014
Leadership Takes Courage by Dennis Clemmer
In October I took part in my high school’s 50th class reunion. I wasn’t sure what to expect and even had some troubling dreams prior to the event. My dreams were not realized, however, and the event was a huge success. All because of courage.
Between my sophomore and junior year, Dave, a classmate, was killed in a trucking accident. Jane, his girlfriend and classmate, was devastated by the tragedy. I remember how sad the viewing and funeral were for all of us who knew Dave. When school started a week later there were no guidance counselors waiting for us. Life was expected to go on as usual.
Now, 50 plus years later, Jane, who was responsible for planning much of our reunion, kicked off the Saturday events by inviting us to a memorial garden on the school’s campus that she had helped develop. That morning, as we classmates and spouses gathered together in a circle, Jane shared her long grief journey and then gave the rest of us permission to revisit and share our stories since graduation. This time of healing and listening and yes, crying together, bonded us in a way that’s difficult to put into words. It was profound.
For me, the courage of this class leader set the tone for the whole day. Instead of just reporting on academic degrees and accomplishments, we ended up having deeply meaningful conversations about things that really mattered.
Jane’s courage and willingness to be transparent reminded me that we business leaders, if we are willing to be courageous and real during difficult times, can help create a climate among employees that encourages respect, personal development and friendship—all ingredients that add meaning to life and, incidentally, help foster a healthy and productive business environment.