Growing up, we look up to mythical and make believe characters. We imagine ourselves as Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and if you were like me, Rambo; who doesn't like running around shooting guns, bow and arrows, and taking out bad guys. As children, our heroes represent what we wish we could do or be, and they play on our imagination. The older we get, the more real our heroes become. As teenagers, our hero's are pop stars, sports stars, and celebrities. As adults, our heroes might be political leaders, authors, and/or people we may know or who are close to us. Ultimately, we look at people and notice things about them that we want to immulate. As a leader, it is good to have heroes. They show us qualities that we want to immulate, they give us examples we want to follow, and they give us a sense of ownership for our actions.
I have many people I look to for examples of good leadership, but there are three individuals that mean the most to me. These three individuals have taught me significant lessons in what characteristics make up great leadership. In no particular order, these three people are Bud Corbus, Alan Bermensolo, and my father, Kelly Wallaert. Each man has taught me something about leadership that I will never forget.
Bud Corbus is a man of few words, which is a quality I truly appreciate. He speaks only when he feels it's time to speak, and when he speaks, you better listen. He is never demeaning in his speech, nor does he make people feel less than him. One of the greatest qualities I have observed in Bud is to be still. Bud does not act hastily or out of emotion. If something happens, or he is presented with a problem, Bud will take time to gather all important information and facts before any decisions are made. He listens intently, and many times can be found taking notes as someone is talking with him. Bud will not make decisions on a whim, but rather takes whatever time is needed to ensure the decision that is made is in the best interest of all parties involved. Bud does not care about fame or being the center of attention. He cares about his employees, his crew, and those he leads. He cares about their safety, well-being, and wants nothing but the best for everyone. He is a good man, and an even greater leader. I have great respect and admiration for Bud Corbus and the example he sets as a leader.
Alan Bermensolo is a man of personal responsibility, honor, and loyalty. Alan was the Chief of the Mountain Home Fire Department when I first joined the department. As a rookie in the department, Alan shared something with me that will stick with me forever. One day during a department meeting Alan said, “When things go well, I will make sure you get all the praise. When things go bad, I will make sure I take the blame. If you fail at something in this department, it is because I failed you as a leader.” He explained that our failure could be due to a lack of training in a certain area or not enough support. Alan knew what it meant to be a leader. He never placed blame, never pointed fingers, and never made excuses. He stuck to his words and showed loyalty, honor, and responsibility as a leader. He would go to bat for anyone and took all the blame when things went badly. He genuinely cared for his firefighters and their safety. He cared about them as individuals. He would invest into each members’ life and speak positively into their life. Alan Bermensolo has shown me what loyalty, honor, and responsibility as a leader looks like and sounds like.
Kelly Wallaert is a man I have had the pleasure of knowing my whole life. He has shown me what hard work and dedication looks like. He didn’t grow up with the greatest of examples in his life, and when it came to being a father to me, he did his best and strived hard to do better than the examples he had growing up. I will admit, I was not an easy son to be a father to. I made plenty of mistakes and should have been whooped a lot more than I was. My father and I had a rocky relationship when I hit my teenage years, and that rocky relationship lasted until I got married at the age of 25. Today, I am blessed to have the father that I do. There is one quality in my father that I admire greatly. My dad is the perfect example of what real, active listening looks like. When I speak to my dad about anything, he makes me feel like he genuinely cares about what I am saying. He doesn’t try to fix my problems, but listens intently; wanting to truly understand what I am saying. He offers suggestions and ideas only when asked, and he asks questions to seek a deeper meaning in the conversation. He maintains eye contact, doesn’t allow outside distraction to deter his attention, and stays focused on every word I say. Kelly Wallaert has shown me the power of real, true, active listening. He has shown me how genuinely listening makes the other person feel.
These three men have been a staple in my understanding and building of my own leadership ideals. Each one has shown characteristics that make great leaders. I respect and appreciate each one of them. They have hearts willing to do the right thing and actions that prove it. Are they perfect? No. Do they try to be the best versions of themselves? I believe they do. If we wait for the perfect leader, we will be waiting for a long time. The perfect human leader doesn’t exist. Every leader struggles, but how a leader conducts themselves, both publicly and privately, is what defines their effectiveness as a leader. All three men I mentioned have made mistakes, they have had their failures, but each man has risen above their mistakes and have become stronger, more effective leaders because of it.
Who are your heroes? What qualities do you look for in leadership? Do you have people in your life that can speak into your life and encourage leadership qualities in you? I encourage you to take an inventory of your heroes and write a list of qualities that you see in them that help you become a better leader, or even more, a better human being.