Vividly Lying in State

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Story: Although our blog audience is literally world wide, most of you would know of senator and American patriot, John McCain, and his passing on Saturday, Aug. 25. McCain and his family were very open regarding his battle with brain cancer, and the public knew it was only a matter of time. While he was an imperfect human, like all of us, it was expected that McCain would be much lauded postmortem. I think it is worth reflecting on what attributes people from all perspectives found most admirable. Two former presidents shared their views:

President Obama: “John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.”

President George W. Bush: “Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”

Key Point: In leaving ATB, I shared some thoughts with my former executive colleagues around attributes that I believe would serve them well as leaders. They are vital ways of thinking and acting, all beginning with the letter “C.” They include CARE, CONNECT, COURAGE and CONFIDENCE. McCain exemplified all of them. He CARED most of all for what he deeply believed was best for the country first; over simplistic partisan or personal gain. One may not have agreed with his purpose driven perspective, but his convictions using the filter of “country first” was consistently clear. As President Obama notes, the Senator conveyed “a fidelity to something higher.” He was also renowned for his love of the Senate and importance of its bilateral CONNECTION. McCain would intentionally connect with senators from both sides of the floor, and he knew most problems involved creating and connecting solutions that included forward compromise. He practically understood that winning involved progress rather than an always zero sum political game. He was respected by both Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps his most revered attribute was COURAGE. It was shaped most fully during his time as a Vietnam POW for five years. He was fearless in speaking out on corruption related to campaign financing. Most recently, applying his “no” vote regarding the repeal of Obamacare took the heart of a lion. It would have been much easier to have cast his vote with the partyline. And when fellow Arizona congressman, now Senator, Jeff Flake was a rookie, McCain mentored him on the importance of CONFIDENCE. Flake was acting hesitant on a number of policies and the sharks were circling. He fondly recalls the story of McCain thumping him in the chest with a forefinger, encouraging Flake to confidently lead, and not knee-jerk to every bit of opposition.

McCain would be first in line describing his personal shortcomings, and questioning decisions that may not have been the best in retrospect. However, my message here is not about his politics or perfection, but about leadership character. I think people from all sides are mourning the loss of McCain’s vivid “C’s” at a time when we so dearly need them. McCain obviously was on a world stage, yet this message is not about how big each of our personal platform is. However modest, we ALL have a position to express CARE, CONNECT and to act with COURAGE and humble CONFIDENCE. Only a handful of people ever lie in state after death, however we can all choose to define the state by which we will lay.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Live to advance humankind. Start with yourself. Apply the C’s, including compassion (which ideally would have been in my original list).
  2. And from George W. Bush (who was never known as the great orator), take inspiration from some compelling insight: Live vividly with a vibrant voice!

Defining our state in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: Yeah, McCain is a great reminder that political views can differ, but if we share core values like the C’s, that means there is always room for discussion, reflection and healthy debate.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis