John McCain: A Striving-to-Be Quintessential Leader

Posted: September 3, 2018 in Quintessential Leadership
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John McCain quintessential leader

John McCain, United States Senator from Arizona, died on August 25, 2018, a little more than a year after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, and always fatal, type of brain cancer.

Senator McCain’s life could have been much different then it turned out to be. He grew up in a very elite and privileged world, and one that afforded him the opportunity, if he chose, to live for himself. Senator McCain didn’t do that.

There are things in life that change your perspective profoundly. Poverty changes everything. Imprisonment changes everything. Incessant hunger changes everything. Oppression changes everything.

These things can make you or break you. You can choose to be bitter and quit, or you can choose to take the lessons and move forward and do your best to make sure that no one else has to experience those on your watch.

John McCain experienced poverty, imprisonment, incessant hunger, and oppression during his captivity as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. When he was freed, he was a changed man.

He came back to the United States, determined to serve his country, just as he had done in the military, but he was determined as well to look out for those who were underserved: the impoverished, those who were imprisoned in a class system that was almost impossible to break out of, the incessantly hungry, and the oppressed.

Whatever scars and post-traumatic stress the John McCain carried from his days as a prisoner of war, he kept private. As a public figure, he was optimistic and he believed in a United States of America.

Senator McCain was not a perfect man – something that all of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders share in common – but when he fell short of his expectations and of the expectations of the people he served, he was the first to admit it and the first to try to change it. As former president Barack Obama said in his eulogy for his friend, “But to know John was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws, his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self-awareness made him all the more compelling.”

But John McCain had the characteristics that define quintessential leadership. He had integrity. He was trustworthy. He was consistent. He said a high standard for himself, for those who served with him in Congress, and for the people of the United States. He was fair. And he was dedicated to serving everybody.

There aren’t a lot of people left either in society, this country, and certainly in this government like John McCain.

Quintessential leadership is getting harder and harder to find. The standards for people in leadership positions are practically nonexistent.

What is common now, through society, in every walk of life, are people in leadership positions who want – who demand – to be served. These are people who are defined by arrogance, greed, narcissism, and the need to oppress and control the people they are supposed to be serving.

We are striving to become quintessential leaders. Do our actions and our lives look more like John McCain’s or do they look like the majority of the people in leadership positions around us today?

How are we doing?

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