It’s been a tough couple weeks for us in the Yorkovich household. We got a phone call early one Tuesday morning. You know how those phone calls work. There is always that question, “Who is in trouble?” or “Who died?” In this case it was the latter. My wife’s Aunt Pauline died and we were a bit surprised. She wasn’t in great health, but there had been no immediate concern. Part of the reason for surprise was that her husband, Don, was the one whose health was failing.
About a week after the funeral for Aunt Pauline, we got another phone call. This time it was Julie’s Uncle Don who had died. This wasn’t a surprise, but it still hurt.
We were able to attend both funerals. I don’t mean to sound morbid or inappropriate, but there is a small part of funerals that I enjoy — the stories, and, in the case of men and women who gave their life to Christ, we get to celebrate a victory over death, not a succumbing to death. I enjoy hearing stories from friends and relatives because I always learn about a slice of that person’s life that I never knew. I get to see that person through others’ eyes and I always hear something to ponder and evaluate for my own life.
Uncle Don, long time dairy farmer, was also a military veteran. He served in the Navy and was laid to rest with military honors. If you’ve ever been to a funeral with military honors you understand the impact of the ceremony. Three young men from the Minnesota National Guard served as the honor guard detail. They were there on a day of sub-zero temperatures to honor this man who sacrificed a portion of his life to ensure you and we can live our lives. They fired nine volley shots, performed the ceremony of folding and presenting the American flag, and played taps. The atmosphere was heavy with respect and honor for the actions of one who impacted countless others.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong.” The men and women who serve American citizens by doing the right thing in defending our country and its constitution are doing the right thing. They are building up honor. In that sense they are all great leaders. Do you do the right thing in your leadership? Are you building up honor?
What does it mean to do the right thing? That can be a tough question to answer. It might be easier to identify the right thing by describing what it is not. Walter Lippmann said that someone has honor if “he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.” Doing the right thing is often NOT convenient. It is often NOT profitable. It is often NOT safe. Uncle Don’s service to our country was not convenient. It was not profitable. It was most certainly not safe. It was honorable.
Leadership is certainly all of those things: not convenient, not profitable, and not safe. What is the measure of the honor you are building up through your leadership? Are you trying to take the convenient way through your leadership responsibilities? Are you trying to profit yourself in leadership? Are you trying to play it safe?
When your leadership journey ends, will it be worthy of honor?