There’s so much more to being a great leader than simply just leading, as we learn from Michigan’s First Gentleman, Dan Mulhern. His new book, Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics, and Life, hits the shelves of your local book store on March 1st. Dan offers business leaders, politicians, teachers, ministers and especially parents, a different way of being an effective leader – leading through serving.
The book offers several very candid stories of Dan’s journey as a father, a bussinessman, and a supportive husband to Michigan’s own Governor Jennifer Granholm. Consider Everyday Leadership an excellent guide to navigate your journey of effective leadership through all of life’s moments.
In the months leading up to the convention, I, too, had a sense of purposeful and powerful service, for I was helping Jennifer achieve something great. During this lead-up, I had also found myself wrestling with my jealous ego as I watched Jennifer cast in the limelight. But now I was flushed with pride and joy as she delivered a great speech. And this great speech delivered her well down the path to victory. I walked her offstage, exulting, smiling, swollen happily in the moment.
The lesson of service was about to become more graphic. Our girls, Kate, eight years old, and Cece, who was seven, beamed at Jennifer. The crowd was howling, hooting, and loving this little family, and it swept us up. Jack, a couple months shy of one year old, was not impressed. Neither was he impressed when the main actor, Geoffrey Fieger, the nominee for governor, strode to the stage to the laborpacked crowd’s wild applause. In fact, Jack was crying, and, let me put it plainly, he stunk. Like any self-respecting parent, I could predict the hideous color and utter liquidity of what was inside this poor baby’s diaper. And with him in this condition it just didn’t seem right to foist him on my mom and younger sister, who were helping out. Much as I wanted to hear Fieger’s speech, Jack was not about to wait, so we ducked out through the heavy black curtains behind the stage. After what seemed like a quarter-mile walk, I found a bathroom, pulled out the plastic mat, got down on the tiled floor and took care of the ugly green business. In that little hall of mirrors, I could see this odd reflection of myself and didn’t know what to think. I was proud of Jennifer and my work in support of her; on the other hand, I was frustrated andâ€”I’m not proud to say thisâ€”a little bitter over the way I was experiencing this historic moment in our family’s life. I figured I had missed Fieger’s speech by now. And there was Jack, oblivious and wonderful, as babies are. I started laughing at the absurdity of it all, felt myself lighten up, and watched a smile spread across Jack’s face. Or is memory tricking me: was Jack the one who lightened up and I followed his lead?
In the eight years since that day, I have often reflected on the gift of that moment. It was as if life, or God if you please, was saying, â€œI am trying to help you see that you can serve and lead in a really different way than you might think you want to, think you should, or even think you can. Be present. Right here. Pay attention, right now, in the middle of the little stuff.â€ This was by no means a once and for all lesson. Instead, especially in my supportive role with my governor-wife, I have had to learn that lesson over and over again. But that time with Jack offered a singular moment and taught me about the unusual three-way intersection where leading, serving, and being human meet.
Special thanks to the University of Michigan Press for the permission to reprint this exclusive excerpt.