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Transformational Leadership!

In 2009, I wrote the following tribute. As I'm now adding it as a chapter in my soon to be published book, I felt prompted to share in this forum as a lesson learned:

I can tell you from experience that, except for a few masochistic personality types, the two least desirable appointments in TSA are Divisional Secretary and Chief Secretary. The hours are long, the abuse maximal and the rewards minimal, oftentimes at the beck and call of a position-inflated ego... or two if married. Again I speak from experience, although Doris was the exception.

Here I pay tribute to another exception, Commissioner Hillmon Buckingham. To serve as his CS was like winning the lottery, when considering all of the other possible combinations out there. Let me tell you why.

First and foremost, Hillmon was the archetypal Salvation Army leader, one worthy of emulation, his style being “transformational” by definition: “Motivating his team to be effective and efficient…focusing on the big picture…always looking for ideas that move the organization forward to reach its vision.” As his CS, I was always an integral part of the leadership team, my thoughts and ideas counting for something.

Second, his style was compassionately inclusive. If Hillmon erred at all, it was always on the side of compassion. Conservative theologically, his compassion was as liberal as it gets. This is why he so generously agreed to write the Forward to my controversial little book, Lean Right, Love Left: Balancing the Body, thus going where others feared to tread.

In it he wrote, “Here is a book that places a mirror in front of every Salvationist and Christian, causing us to ask the question of ourselves, ‘Are we caringly compassionate towards those who are different? Like Jesus our blessed Lord, the Salvationist must ever proffer a Christ guided, loving hand in the spirit of kindness in an endeavor to lift the fallen and promote a sense of inclusiveness.’”

His was a sanctified leadership style, treating every individual, be they officer, soldier, employee, client or alternative lifestyle person, with dignity and respect. And the territory thrived accordingly, myself a lucky beneficiary of that prosperity, both personally and corporately.

Moving on into one of those potentially ego-inflating positions, these “transformational” lessons learned were incorporated into my own leadership philosophy, albeit never reaching the same pinnacle. Not only was he one of my leadership models; he also became a close confidant and friend.

Lest you think these words of tribute an exaggeration, they are not. God help us, each one, to strive for that same standard: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This “upward call” is the hope of the Army, emulated in the life, ministry and leadership of Hillmon Buckingham. He’s made it all the way to the top, where I hope to join him one day. Only then will I have arrived.

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