A Measure of Leadership

     In our small part of the world with global impact the PGA recently ascended upon the community for the 73rd Senior PGA Championship Presented by KitchenAid at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Club at Harbor Shores.  You might say ascended?, but descended doesn't describe the opportunity.
     Having discussed the very long, hard fought and expensive journey in Economic Growth, Vision and Reality, High Hopes, and The Art of Business recently, I don't mean to belabor the point. However two stories in the Herald Palladium since Friday show how visionary and innovative many individuals and organizations have been. In particular, two key community leaders are worth discussing.  It's unfortunate that the paper's ownership has a skewed vision of internet news, so if you read these stories two weeks after publishing, you'd have to pay to read them.  For that, I apologize.
Graphic courtesy The Herald Palladium
     Ron Schults graduated from St. Joseph, Michigan high school in 1974, graduated in 1978 from MIT (Michigan, not Massachusetts) and founded the Abonmarche Group the following year. Building a highly successful global company based out of Southwest Michigan. Last year he built the $6 million dollar Concorde Ridge Equestrian Center in Royalton Township.  There's a Schults Family Scholarship at Lake Michigan College.
He founded Edgewater Resources along with Greg and Kathy Weykamp to help community development anywhere in the world, including home.  That firm is now behind the $114 million dollar Harbor Village Development imaged above with a new hotel, marina and housing next to the Golf Club at Harbor Shores on the St. Joseph River. The story was written by Kate Genellie.  I wrote a story last year for the Herald Palladium (I wear multiple hats) about Ron's sailing team in the Chicago to Mackinaw race.  In the storms of life and Lake Michigan, two sailors died, and Ron's boat was in the thick of it.  Here's an excerpt:

      “Doug Beaudet did an amazing job at the wheel, but we lost   
       our jib, spinnaker and our main sail,” said James Carolla. 
       That’s when a powerful wave took experienced crew mate  
       Katy Powers over the side. “We knew she was tethered in 
       and I was stretched out completely to grab the neck of her 
       jacket, and Ron grabbed onto her leg,” said Carolla. “Greg 
      Weykamp just reached over then and pulled Katy and I back 
      into the boat.”
      After saving their own crew, Ron and Greg saw the distress flare from the capsized Wingnuts and their boat became part of the search party to rescue the capsized sailors.  While they were sailing a clearly damaged vessel with a stressed crew. Certainly there are multiple versions of that event, just as six of us seeing a car accident will give different versions to the police. My apologies if you were there and remember something different than what I was told in interviews.
     The above descriptions beyond the sailing incident however tell you that both Schults and Weykamp are individuals with vision and values far above the norm for corporate America.  Some of you are trying to figure out how to get a job working for them even now.
      Sunday in the Herald Palladium a story about former Whirlpool CEO David Whitwam and the amazing amount of work it's taken to get to this point of development and community change at Harbor Shores.  The development has only really just begun for all segments of society willing to change and is another major turning point. I've worked with and for David in very small ways over 17 years now in community development and customer service improvement efforts. (Small refers to how well David knows me, not the community work). 

    To be honest, my passions and youth didn't always blend well with his corporate political correctness, a skill I'm still learning. Yet as another community leader asked me over lunch recently when the book was coming out (which isn't started unless it's this blog), my first thought was of the leadership example, vision, persistence, generosity and service to others of Dave Whitwam and the Whirlpool Corporation.

    As the Servant Leader he exemplifies,  the focus of that story wasn't Dave but the CEO before him at Whirlpool, Jack Sparks, who had the original vision Dave and others never forgot. If you own or your retirement account owns any Whirlpool stock, his leadership as CEO of the global firm is so obvious I'm not providing a link. Although I'm not sure of the national average, I can't count the number of times I served at the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen under the leadership of his wife Barb Whitwam, so it has been a team effort.  

    Yet the most important and long term measure of a true leader, is the number of individuals they have mentored in their life.  The other leaders they have helped develop to achieve not corporate quarterly returns alone, though they have value, but the many individuals from diverse backgrounds and multiple ethnicities and worldviews who go on to make a tremendous, positive impact in their areas of expertise.  

   When Mr. Whitwam, though he prefers Dave if you meet him, could be spending all his time on the tropical island of his choice or just buy it outright, he continues to develop individual potential and leadership skills in others that will pay dividends for the next 100 years while revitalizing community.  If any of us do what we can to follow his example, that impact extends beyond our great-great-grandchildren to generations we'll never see.

    I don't mean to make Ron Schultz, Greg Weykamp, or David Whitwam out to be super human. They're not. In the right place with an understanding audience I expect they'd admit the errors they've made.  Well, given their leadership examples they might admit that sooner than most of us would. Nor are they individuals with whom I have any real relationship with.

     I simply write what's on my heart given the experience and knowledge I have with what I observe.  These are human beings I would strive to become in living out on a daily basis the values I believe in.   After all, I only have today as far as I know to make a positive difference in my small circles of influence.  Beyond that, it's the legacy of what others we've taught do that matters.  But that's a lesson I learned in particular from Dave, Ron, and Greg among many others in Pure Southwest Michigan.


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