Some people are born knowing they are special. Maybe an experience showed them they had a special talent, maybe they watched a movie that inspired them, or read a book that enforced in them that they were unique. Honestly, I do think some people have an internal sense and drive that they simply must pursue. I was surrounded with friends who were exceptionally, extraordinarily talented. They were writing, choreographing, singing, conducting, inventing and creating at levels that broke the ceiling of what was expected from youth. Even if they had doubts, insecurities, or acne that plagued them, they somehow knew that they had special gifts. They knew they would change the world for the better, and they have. That is really fantastic. But I hated them just a little bit for it.
Some of us needed another way. We grew up knowing we were loved, but not so sure we were special. We needed time. We needed attention. We needed someone to be patient and not only teach us, but listen to us. Someone who could peel back the layers of self-doubt, dust off the insecurity, and say,
“See, here’s the real you. You’re amazing.” That’s what Jack did for me and so many others.
Thursday’s were always my favorite day as a teen. Thursdays I went home with Jack. I took voice
lessons from his wife Ginny and he would drive me to his house for the lessons. I suppose in today’s world that wouldn’t go over very well. I am so grateful to have been born in an era where teachers were so trusted. I looked forward to those car trips. He would talk about his kids, the latest musical, and high school gossip. I felt special to have that time with him. He made me feel special because he treated me with respect and kindness and listened as if I was a peer. Thursday’s with Jack. You can call it mentorship, role-modeling, doing a favor. I call it love.
My work today is often about leadership. Everyone has their own approach and thoughts on what it means to be a leader. We all lead in a style that is unique for us. When we try (and believe me I have tried) to lead by ways that aren’t authentic to us, it shows. It shows in a break down in us internally, and it shows to others that we are faking it.
Jack led from Love. Not the sappy love you see in movies, or read in Hallmark cards. Not flowering, soft, oozing, saccharin sweet love. I’m talking powerful, strong, steadfast, honest, committed, persevering, caring LOVE. He led generations of youth and made us want to be better. We practiced harder, studying longer, showed up early and stayed late for him. We wanted to see his eyes light up when we nailed a routine or did well on a test. We wanted to be as good as he told us we could be. We wanted his love.
And he loved us so well.
A great man has died. I have received this call before. His death was a long goodbye, but it gave us the gift of time, which I did not have with my own father. I held his sweet face in my hands and told him how much he meant to me. I got to tell him my children dance because of him. That I do a little time step at the bus stop everyday at 2:30pm before the bus arrives because of him. I got to tell him that Thursdays with him made me special. He taught me the secret ingredient to all leadership: love. I’ve now made it my life’s work to help dust people off, peel back the layers, and say, “See, here’s the real you. You’re amazing.”
A great leader has died. But his legacy lives in the generations he touched. His legions of fans span the entire world now. They are directors, actors, musicians, dancers, producers, teachers, parents, engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, doctors, lawyers and a million other things. But the common thread we all bear, the universal message we imprint on all who meet us, is to take the time to love, and never forget to dance.
You are not dead Jack. You live in each of us. When we are patient, when we are funny, when we find our toes tapping, or our feet shuffling, when we put on cologne or perfume or make up funny sayings (Rrr-rombus), when we clap our hands, or take our children to see a musical, you are alive again. When we are our best selves, when we remember who we really are, we are honoring you. We are alive with love.
You see great leadership never truly dies. It lives on in the hearts of the followers.
Do not rest in peace Jack. Don’t you dare. Grab your top hat and cane, put on your tap shoes and dance your ass off.