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I have many fond memories from my earlier days. Many of them had no real meaning to me at the time because I was just a kid, but as time goes by I look back on them as life lessons and I realize the importance of the simple and silent lessons that I was learning from great teachers.

My Father would take my older brother and I to the country store of C. W. Borkey. The building is still standing today and it now serves as an antique shop. Mr. Borkey sold hardware, lumber, canned food, animal feed and assorted necessities that country people needed. He pumped gasoline from the tall old gas pumps with the clear glass tops. His two story house was attached to the store.

For me, the best part of Borkey’s Store was the pile of feed bags and the penny candy. My brother and I would climb on the pile of feed bags and play and each time before leaving the store we would stand on nail kegs and watch as Mr. Borkey picked out the pieces of penny candy from glass jars as we pointed to them and then placed them into small brown paper bags. My favorite candy was coconut and we always took a few pieces home for our Mother.

We were only allowed to play on the feed bags that were made of burlap and never on any of the colorful cloth feed bags in the store. I later saw my Mother using the material from these cloth bags to make curtains, table cloths and quilts. We used the burlap bags to insulate the chicken house.

The sewing of quilts was once a necessity. Quilting was a way of making productive use of pieces of material and a good heavy quilt was not only warm it demonstrated the creativity, pride and skill of the quilter.

Sometimes leaders fail because of their inability or unwillingness to recognize the simplicity of leadership. I write and speak about this leadership simplicity not to try to salvage misguided or failed leaders; but to guide the young people who with their desire, passion and heart seem to be looking for nothing more than an example to follow, a mentor, someone who shares their feed bag lessons for free or maybe for the price of a piece of penny candy.

People who lead well have a clear understanding of need. They stay focused on the warmth and function of the leadership quilt to the team, instead of on winning personal blue ribbons at the state fair of political correctness and public opinion.

Those who follow with a desire to someday lead will always recognize a poorly woven quilt. They will naturally choose to follow a leader who has taken the time to gather, to plan, to lay out and to carefully sew pieces of cloth into a patchwork of leadership that reflects selflessness, pride in the team, passion for the mission, warmth and a genuine caring attitude toward the young people and future leaders. Even the young people who are just playing on a pile of feed bags will someday realize the important differences between burlap leadership and a finely crafted leadership quilt. They will remember in time.

My leadership quilt is well worn and experienced. I sewed it with care from the quality pieces of cloth that were given to me by great leaders who led with principles and character. Many were quiet leaders who I called Giants in Sock Feet, who led me and taught me to sew something that would stand the test of time. They showed up at the nail with a desire to serve and a simple hope of making their team highly functional and their players as warm as possible.

I wear rubber boots today because I chose to make sure that those who were doing the sewing received the light weight and more comfortable leather boots first. I never take water at fires until those who are hustling take two. They have constantly stood up for me when it counts and I have so enjoyed standing in the shadows and watching them applauded for their saving the baby, their salvage of the people’s stuff, for fixing that bicycle, for taking care of the man in the box and for their pride in a public service job well done. The quilt they have sewn has so warmed me.

Leaders that last sew pieces together.

Collecting pieces of cloth without a plan is called leadership hoarding and it creates a mess.

Let young people experience leadership even if they need help climbing up on the leadership nail keg.

Penny candy only cost a penny. Encouraging and saying Thank you for a job well done is free.

Sit down with the team and talk about quilting, the importance of the pieces, planning and good thread.

Thanks for reading, sharing and caring.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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