Many of you may have read the book or seen the movie about the legendary frontiersman, gunfighter, and Indian warrior, “Little Big Man.” I actually know him and call him my friend—Charlie Jenkins. As many of you may already know and for those of you who do not, Charlie died on November 14, 2004, but Charlie’s personification of living, learning, and leadership will live on forever as his legacy to all of us. Each of us may have our own way of capturing his legacy; this is mine.
Having read Charlie’s articles and book chapters, listened intently to his leadership “sermons,” engaged actively in regular conversation and dialogue, and heard his teachings through our co-facilitation of the Leadership Academy’s Individual Effectiveness Skills program (steeped in FranklinCovey’s 7 Habits), there are several themes around leadership that have emerged for me. They are:
Charlie often quoted Stephen R. Covey who said, “It is much more ennobling to the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them.” He would also agree with J. W. Marriott Jr., who said, “Motivate them, train them, care about them, and make winners out of them . . . we know that if we treat our employees correctly, they will treat the customers right. And, if customers are treated right, they will come back.” Charlie’s comment to all of this was, “It isn’t exactly rocket science, is it?”
Ultimately Charlie recounted three attributes of a leader: 1) must have a vision for the future; 2) must be flexible; and, 3) does not quit.
As you can surmise, Charlie was incredibly “profound” which according to Webster’s Dictionary is defined as “having intellectual depth and insight and is characterized by intensity of feeling or quality.” He had a superb command of the English language and invariably referred to Webster’s Dictionary to offer a tacit and explicit definition of words and thoughts. He would then explain them simply, concisely, and succinctly; he truly had an uncanny ability to simplify and demystify the most complex issues and problems. Charlie also had an incredibly “profound” impact on others. Humble, as always, he came unabated and unbridled, willing and eager to share and/or listen to new and different thoughts and ideas. He did all of this with a style I call “vintage Charlie” which you can capture in his short responses and rhetorical questions.
Now you can better understand why I opened the article with the illustration of “Little Big Man.” As a frontiersman, Charlie led the way, always doing the right thing and looking to new frontiers of opportunity and learning with energy and enthusiasm. He considered this part of life’s wonderful journey. As a gunfighter, although an odd term in this day and age, Charlie never backed away from his principles and values. He was a risk-taker, but never foolhardy, always investing himself fully in anything he did or anyone he served to mentor. As a warrior, which is an equally imposing term today but I would suggest appropriate, he had the warrior’s spirit. He was not afraid to be different, to fight for bold ideas, or to take on new challenges to forge new territory. Equally as well, he was excited about life, living it to the fullest extent, eager and willing to give back to his friends and colleagues.
Ten years ago, Charlie was asked what he hoped people would remember about him. He said, “I hope they will remember the speeches on leadership; think that I was a special kind of APPA president; and that I helped us move in the direction of thinking a little more about leadership and a little less about management.” If there was ever any doubt in Charlie’s mind (or any of ours for that matter), I hope this helps just a bit to remove such doubt.
Suffice it to say that I already miss my buddy, my mentor, my teacher, and my role model! The outpouring of comments from across the country in the past two months tells me you do too! What a void for family, friends, and facilities professionals alike. I would suggest that if folks know Charlie—the Person—then, in equivalent ways, they know Charlie—the Professional. His convictions and his integrity were similar. However, his impact upon the facilities profession is far-reaching and will live on. Charlie might think it suspect, but I think it is still appropriate, to expand on this Covey quote/mission statement: “To live, to learn, to love, to leave a legacy.” Applied to Charlie:
Charlie may be gone from our physical sight, hearing, and touch; but he will NEVER be gone from our hearts and our minds.