As George W. Bush is completing his first week in the ultra-exclusive club of being a former President of the United States, I'll share with you a passage that I have just come across in a newly published book I'm reading. It resonates under the circumstances of the change in the White House. It also contains a leadership lesson for all. The book is "The Power of Who," by Bob Beaudine, president and CEO of Eastman & Beaudine, an executive search firm. Bob rewinds in time with this following anecdote:
"I met George W. in 1983 while planning a political event for his dad (then vice president) and President Ronald Reagan. We couldn't get either of the two fathers to come speak at our event, so we did the next best thing—we invited their kids: George W. and Maureen Reagan.
"When my wife, Cheryl, and I picked up George W. at Love Field in Dallas, I expected to see Secret Service and an entourage of helper bees swarming the vice president's son. But to my surprise, there was no one with him. The future president of the United States came off that Southwest Airlines flight from Midland, Texas, wearing the basic uniform of a Texas oilman: a blue work shirt and jeans. He even carried a backpack.
"George W. was down to earth and charismatic and had an engaging smile. It wasn't long before he made Cheryl and me feel like we were his closest friends, partly by his endearing style of calling me Bobby instead of Bob. Nobody had called me a nickname since college. Through the years, this term of affection went from Bobby to Bobby Boy.
"We hosted George throughout the event. Watching him, my wife and I both commented that he seemed naturally gifted with the skills needed for this type of political fund-raising event. He made friends easily and seemed like he cared about those he met. He also had one exceptional skill that cannot be learned. When he first meets you, he has the rare ability to create a special moment just between the two of you. He would put a hand on your shoulder or tell a story or a joke as if it were meant just for you.
"Had I been more perceptive perhaps I would have recognized some of the clues that indicated greater things to come in George W.'s future."
A poignant reflection, indeed. And, no matter what your political persuasion, a singular insight into the character of leadership. By the way, Bob Beaudin's book is subtitled "You Already Know Everyone You Need to Know." To be honest, that intriguing subtitle is what got me to crack the cover. It's a worthy read, particularly for the times we're in now when relationships—and leadership at every level—are being tested by the economic crisis.