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FIRST-PERSON: Leadership includes ‘little things’

HOUSTON (BP)–Leadership is being, not just doing. You can see it in the little things.

When President and Mrs. Bush arrived at Shiloh Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 22, 2003, to deliver Christmas gifts for the children of inmates (part of Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program led by Chuck Colson) — what some characterized as a “photo op” — many thought the Bushes would immediately get back into the motorcade and head back to the White House.

Long after the official photo op was over, and the press pool was ushered out, the president stayed, greeting each child, mother and grandmother, and speaking Spanish to the Hispanic children. Although some reporters stuck around in that crowded basement, the extended presidential visit drew virtual silence from the national press corps.

But by now, the event was no longer a “presidential visit” or “photo op,” but the expression of what his host, Chuck Colson, called a man who “really cares for the ‘least of these.’”

President Bush’s longtime trusted aide, Karen Hughes, tells another one of those “little things” stories when on an important campaign swing just a week before the straw poll in Ames, Iowa: “Governor Bush sent me home to Austin. My twelve-year-old son was playing that night in a baseball game that could decide the capital area’s Little League championship. Early that morning, Governor Bush told me, ‘You need to get on the next flight home and go to see that game.’ I protested, worried about fulfilling my professional responsibilities to him; he insisted. I went home. My boss was running for president, but I made every game except one.”

Hughes, who traveled to Washington with Bush, has since returned to Texas to be with her husband and her son. This speaks admirably of her, but also volumes of her leader who doesn’t view himself as any more important than his followers.

Instinctively, Bush knew that a president is not more important than a teenager who needs the leadership and nurturing of a faithful mom more than a president needs a trusted adviser.

The little things speak legions of a man who inspires trust among those he leads.
Adapted from “Trust: The One Thing that Makes or Breaks a Leader” by Les T. Csorba (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004). Used by permission.

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  • Les T. Csorba