It starts with a kid holding a sign by the side of the road.
It’s also about timing.
I’m driving through a small town. My car is plastered with bugs and I see the kid with the sign – “Car Wash”. Right behind him is another sign – “Rummage Sale”.
I immediate know what’s going on – a fundraiser.
I cruise on by, intent on reaching my destination, but a block or so later I realize, “Wait a minute! This is not who I am or who I want to be!”
You see, in this country of ours – this country with a Constitution that protects freedom – the country with a controlling document that contains leadership lessons in every line – one of those freedoms is the right of that kid to stand there and hold that sign because he wants to accomplish something and he needs to generate money to accomplish it. And he has the right to do that – guaranteed!
So, I make a quick U-turn (small town, very little traffic, even though it’s a Saturday afternoon) and go back and turn in and ask the woman standing with the kid where to go. She directs me to a parking spot.
I get out and no one is there but pretty soon here comes the kid running by (still carrying the sign by the way) and running toward a crowd of people at what is clearly the rummage sale. Soon a man looks up at me and makes a “Wax on! Wax off!” signal (you gotta speak “Karate Kid” right?) and I give him a thumbs up and he heads over with a couple of teenage girls in tow.
We joke about the “Wax on! Wax off!” signal and then they begin to wash my car. I ask him what the fundraiser is for and he says, “It’s to send these kids to summer camp.” I’m all about kids and camp so I say, “Great!” I ask how much and he says, “Whatever you feel like donating.”
They finish the car wash. It’s a good job and I give them several times what a car wash normally costs me. He thanks me for my generosity and I’m on my way. So, what’s this story got to do with leadership and the Constitution? Only everything!
You see, leadership is foundationally about the character of the leader. My goal is to be a better leader today than I was yesterday which means I not only need to develop and improve my character every day but I also need to practice great leadership principles every chance I get as part of that development process.
The Framers knew this and knew two very critical things about character. First, great leadership requires great and constantly improving character in the leader (and the followers, who also always help lead by the way, but especially in the leader). Second, too much concentration of power corrupts character almost without exception (there was this one guy a couple thousand years ago and perhaps a few others, but beyond that…).
So, here’s the deal. If I say I’m all about kids, camping, leadership, and character development and then drive by when I have the need (filthy car), the time, and the money then I’m being inconsistent and my character takes a hit. And here’s the real point – no one would have ever known except me (and God, of course)! The key is that is all the witnesses I need. I’m either consistent or I’m not – it’s that simple.
Now, I’m not perfectly consistent – no one is. But I do constantly and consistently try to be and that’s all that is required. Keep working and keep improving! Leadership is a lifestyle choice and a character choice!
This is why so many “so-called” leaders are just that – “so-called”. They lack the character to be good (much less great) leaders and they do not even try to improve their character. The Framers knew this. For example, John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He and the other Framers clearly knew that character is paramount.
So back to the car wash. The kid is displaying leadership and character by holding the sign and running to get the car wash crew. The “Wax on! Wax off!” guy is displaying leadership and character by heading things up and ensuring that I get a good job with my car wash. The teenage girls are displaying leadership and character by cheerfully doing a great job helping wash my car and taking extra care without being told to do so. I leave with a clean car and they leave with a few bucks to add to their fundraiser for camp. Everybody wins and walks away feeling better for the experience.
There’s no “Car Wash Inspector” micro-managing the process, no “Car Wash Permit Fee Collector”, there to take a cut and slow the process down, etc. The Constitution guarantees our right to cooperate and do things like this if we choose – along with many other rights. Remember what the Framers wrote as to the purpose of the Constitution. In the Preamble, “…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”. In the Declaration of Independence, they noted that our rights come from our Creator and not from government and that government’s job is to secure those rights.
They knew that the proper function of government is to have the minimum amount of structure to secure those rights and to maintain order and then to get out of people’s way and let them figure out how to sink or swim on their own. (Kinda sounds like a car wash to me!)
Cevin Ormond is a Leadership Expert, Professional Speaker, and Best-Selling Author. His new book, “The Constitution of a Great Leader – Leadership in the 21st Century”, is now available at: http://theconstitutionofagreatleader.com/ and also from Indigo River Publishing and Amazon.com