I spend a lot of time with leaders. They come in all shapes and sizes. I make it my business to study how each one leads. Her impact. His influence. The way she make decisions and how he makes the hard calls. Recently, I met a leader who is truly unique.
Mike is a war hero, a decorated navy pilot. He is an astronaut who has over 400 hours in space and has commanded the shuttle's missions. He has been a senior executive at a large aero-space corporation. Last but not least, he has served as the Director of the Johnson Space Center leading over 17 thousand people.
I recently had dinner with him the night before he was to address a group of leaders with me at a national conference. I thought I might hear of his military experience or maybe what it was like tofly in space. Maybe he would give me some tips for leading at the executive level or directing a space center. Nope, none of these made the conversation topic list. Mike talked to me about his precious grandchildren. He spoke of his children and how much pleasure he got from picking up his grandkids and spending time with them. He told me about the questions they asked and how they were growing up too fast.
Mike had to leave the conference immediately and catch a flight to be back with his bride of 50 years. She has Alzheimer's and while she no longer recognizes him, they have a milkshake date every night. He said he loves it when her "face lights up" when they are together...even though he is pretty sure its the "milkshake making her smile."
A man of honor. A man of integrity. A man of humility and grace. Being with Mike was a gift that I will remember for a long time. He is living a legacy of leadership that is truly making a difference.