Ethical Edge

By Russell Williams

Ethical Edge

2010 ~ Dan Rogers

They Came My Way
Servant Leadership Success

“Six essential qualities that are the keys to success:
Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity.”
William Menninger

It was 2010. Haiti’s worst earthquake in 200 years struck on January 12. A volcanic explosion in Iceland on April 14 sent an ash plume over northern and central Europe.  In April a BP oil drilling rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana killed 11 people and injured 17.  86 days later the gushing oil contamination in the Gulf of Mexico was finally contained.

In May a Picasso painting, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, sold for a record breaking $106.5 million. Scott Brown won a special Senate election in Massachusetts  vacated by the late Ted Kennedy.  On March 21, Obamacare was passed into law.  Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement after serving on the court for 35 years.

The Saints won the Super Bowl.  The Lakers defeated the Celtics for the NBA Championship. Duke was, again, the NCAA basketball champion. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 was released as was Toy Story 3. Robert Byrd, Tony Curtis, J.D Salinger, John Wooden and Alexander Haig passed on.

In early summer I met Dan Rogers at his office to conduct a video interview.  Serving as CEO of Goodwill Industries of Orange County, Dan had been selected to be an honoree at the 2010 Leaders of Integrity Awards. Dan’s illustrious professional leadership career that began in coaching, expanded into business and culminated with his many years of leadership in the non-profit world was soon to culminate with his retirement.

Dan and I had spare time prior to the shoot.  He was eager to show me around the expansive home office facilities of the largest OC non-profit that serves thousands of individuals annually and has well over 1000 employees. What I did not expect nor could have imagined, I was about to experience a mastery lesson on servant leadership.

The main office is the main hub of the collection, bundling and distribution center for the expansive county-wide Goodwill operations which in 2010 numbered nineteen retail stores. Walking the halls and clothing separation areas, the work energy was intense with scores of employees pursuing the rapid activity that fills a day at the center.

Immediately, something special began to show itself as Dan walked me around the facilities. What might have been a 10-minute Look-See became a 45-minute tour and engagement of Dan and his Goodwill team. While I don’t remember  a single dialogue, imagine that what I describe below is what happened everywhere…and with everyone we encountered.

“Bob, good morning!  How is your mom?”

“Maria, what’s going on with your son’s grades?”

“Jose, are we going to make that shipment today?”

“Senor Dan, Como estas?    “Muy bien, Arturo.”

“Alicia, are you going to get away on a vacation soon?”

Quick, interactive friendly bursts of banter punctuated by a specific dialogue as if Dan and the individual were picking up on a previous conversation.

As we continued our walk, Dan made it a point to spend time with many of the developmentally disabled employees. Dan’s caring, loving manner was on display as he engaged each individual about their work and their life.

If someone saw Dan from across an aisle 40 feet away, we’d hear a voice yell,

“Hey Dan, how goes it!   Keepin’ busy?”

“Always, Francisco, always!

And so it went until Dan and I made our way back to his office.  It was then that I inquired:

“Dan, how do you know everybody and what’s going on in their life?”

“Russ, I have made it a point to be part of the interviewing process of every individual employed by Goodwill. It’s become difficult to do so with the growth of our staff, but it is the one way I know I can communicate to every person that they matter to the work of our organization and to me.”

Dan’s Way is The Way of servant leadership success.  The quote of William Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Institute, captures the values proposition of leaders like Dan. They are cut in the cloth of relational management which constantly witnesses to the worth and dignity of the individual with the self-effacing values of sincerity, humility, courtesy and charity toward all, built on the firm foundation of life wisdom put to a daily test demonstrating personal integrity.

Dan’s management and leadership skills, wherever he applied them over the course of his professional career, brought significant growth to the bottom lines of the organizations he led. But, it was how Dan led that was, in my observation, the measure of his success.  Dan got himself out of the way to put his eyes on others to see the unique self of others. He showed authentic leadership not by being smarter than others, but in clearly caring about the story of human resources that shape America’s organizations.

How much did I value my Dan Walk Around?  Let me put it this way.  In 45 minutes Dan showed me how great leadership defines organizational culture.  The most important person in the world was always the one he was speaking to in the moment…and every person knew it and valued what Dan brought as a man of trust to their life.

They come our way!  When they do, we take notice and think to ourselves, “Wow!  It looks simple.”  But, the irrefutable fact is that real servant leaders cannot fake caring for the person who stands before them.

Dan demonstrated that fact to me.  I am glad he came my way!


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