Good people die everyday. Yet not all of them affirm for us the goodness in humanity and leadership the way Ted did. He passed away last week and left a legacy of positive experiences for anyone who took the time to know him – which wasn’t a hard thing to do. Most likely you don’t know Ted but you can learn from the legacy he left.
Ted Staton was a professional City Manager. Contrary to popular opinion, his career wasn’t one he chose because it paid big bucks (these jobs don’t pay what the private sector does). Rather, he had a passion for serving the public. Likewise, he didn’t take this path because it was easy. If that were true, Ted wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with it. His passion and hard work led him to become a great leader with the ability to navigate an elected council, lead an organization, and take tons of public criticism with finesse and grace.
The people side of things
Ted loved people, and was willing to do the hard work it takes to build all kinds of relationships. Because he worked on the taxpayer’s dime, not everyone was satisfied. Yet Ted made friends from enemies. He intentionally built the kind of relationships in the communities he worked in that would bring people together and along. Because he was so good at relationship building, things got done.
It would have been easy for him to slip into an authoritative power mode, but Ted’s humility was the real power he had in the relationships he cultivated. Being humble helped him to be known as someone who acted out ethically even while others in similar positions did not.
And of course, he was human. Ted made his share of mistakes. The difference between him and other leaders is that he pondered those mistakes and quietly learned from them. They weren’t made a second time, and he grew and developed because he had a learning mindset.
His humanity extended to his family, friends, and anyone else who knew him. People liked him. He was easy to know, an open book. We all thought we knew him, but now we know that we would have liked to have known him even better and had him stay around longer.
If he could look back on who he was and what he did, I think he might be more than a little surprised to see that not only did his passion for leadership drive the cities he lived in to be better than he found them, he also embodied the mantra of “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Ted not only made positive changes in the communities he was a part of, but he also cared about people. He believed that positive change and caring about people were intricately linked.
Ted was known for mentoring others in the profession he loved; he was the “go to” person for young leaders to gain the self-confidence needed to do the difficult work of public service. He sought to develop the people who worked in his organization because he knew they would be better leaders as a result of what they learned.
It seems trite to say that Ted will be missed, or that he went away too soon. But it’s true. The bottom line is that he was a great leader. And when you pulled back the curtain of all that entails, you can also see that he was also good person who cared about others. We can all learn a lot about leadership and humanity by following Ted’s example.