Today is Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich 52nd birthday. The gift to his state? His arrest. Wiretaps show he’s a profanely arrogant, self-absorbed man with a supreme sense of entitlement. The U.S. Attorney’s office says he tried to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat and demanded campaign contributions in return for state funding.
His relentless pursuit of power and financial gain are disgustingly blatant abuses of the privilege of leadership. Clearly, he’s the sinner in this tale.
Now, let’s contrast that with the leadership saint. His name is Kent Clapp. Many of you outside of Ohio don’t know Kent – and sadly, you’ll never get the chance. Clapp, the CEO of Ohio’s largest insurance company, died last week trying to keep his commitments to community and company. After he missed his flight from the British Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico at the end of a brief, well-deserved vacation, Kent found a private pilot to fly him to Puerto Rico so he could still catch his scheduled commercial flight home to North America. Never mind that he was fearful of small, private planes. He was trying to get back to the office for a meeting with a community leader the next morning and for his company’s annual Christmas party that night.
The private plane, apparently lost in heavy fog, crashed into the side of a mountain. Kent Clapp was dead at age 62.
Why did he board the small plane if he was wary of them? Because as a leader, Kent never let anyone down. He didn’t want to miss a meeting on his calendar. And, contrasted with the governor of Illinois, he never asked for anything in return.
Kent Clapp turned Medical Mutual around by assuming the leadership helm when the company was in turmoil ten years ago. Prior to that, he’d patiently worked his way up through the ranks, thirty years in all. Once he was named CEO, he guided the company’s 2,700 employees to blossom into a highly successful organization that, at the time of his death, had expanded to eight states.
Everyone in the organization loved him, from his executive team to the janitorial staff. He insisted everyone call him Kent, not Mr. Clapp. He always had time for everyone. He was accessible and thoughtful. Not a hint of leadership arrogance.
Kent will be laid to rest this week. He leaves behind a legacy of unselfish leadership along with a family of six children. A heartfelt goodbye to Kent Clapp.
As for Illinois Governor Blagojevich? He’ll be remembered as a brazenly selfish wheeler dealer. Let’s say good riddance to the sinful man who’s now clinging to power. True leadership is not about power. As we learned from Kent Clapp, leadership means integrity, commitment and putting others before yourself.