Newt Gingrich on John McCain
John McCain died of brain cancer on August 25, 2018.
Newt Gingrich shared a surprising story about McCain.
Gingrich writes, “One of my most personal encounters with John was in 1986 when I was in a very intense fight with the House Democratic leadership. Two physically large House Democrats came over and said they were sick and tired of what I was doing and I ought to know there would be a payback. One of them said, ‘We are coming for you.’
I had not realized that McCain had calmly come over to stand next to me. When the Democrat sounded threatening, John instinctively stepped closer to me and said, ‘When you come for Newt, come for me too, the name’s McCain.’” (FOX)
McCain was a first term congressman when this happened.
You might be tempted to attribute McCain’s behavior to political theatrics. I heard people say that McCain understood and leveraged political theatrics. But when you know that he refused early release in the late 1960’s from the Hanoi Hilton to stand with his fellow POW’s, you realize that McCain knows how to stand with people.
It costs a leader to stand with others. It’s so costly that some leaders hang team members out to dry when they screw up.
You probably know what it’s like to drive a stake in the ground beside a team member only to have him casually drive a stake in your back. It might have been ignorance on their part. It may have been malice, but the pain is the same.
There IS advantage to standing with others when it seems there’s only disadvantage. Frankly, that’s the time it matters most.
You earn trust when you stand with others.
How might you stand with others today?
(This post is not an endorsement of anyone’s politics. Nor do I suggest that McCain always acted admirably. This is a leadership blog. I will delete any comments that take the discussion down a political hole.)
An associate of mine made a significant decision which the senior leader felt was a mistake. The two men discussed what happened, why it occurred, and possible ramifications of the associate’s decision. The senior leader said, “You made the decision and I will back you fully, however, talk to me next time something like this comes up.” Having the junior associate’s back allow me to trust this senior leader more deeply. BTW, when my wife had cancer, the senior leader and his wife came and sat with me during long tests. I may disagree with him, but I would follow him anywhere. He stood with me.
Thanks McSteve. Your story is powerful. I might write about “how to stand with others” this afternoon. You’re story is perfect.
I think we might undervalue the power of standing with people. As you say, you’ll follow him anywhere.
Originally, I was going to write that self-protection causes us to NOT stand with others. But I changed my mind. There is personal advantage to stand with others. I must acknowledge that in some organizations leaders are punished for standing with people. But who wants to work there.
Even if it stings. Standing with people is good for everyone.
Yes, corrective action might need to be taken. But I’d rather be corrected by someone who is standing by my side than be someone who is standing aloof.
People in the military learn to stand with each other. It is in the traditions and in the affinity we all have for each other. Inter service rivalries are legendary. When on is threatened every other service responds.
Business leaders say they are interested in hiring vets for their leadership skills. Many can’t define what that exactly means they just know they want it.
This is one of those elements – courage to stand in a just but unpopular time. In Lominger’s competencies they have a number of skills that when used in concert bring together the elements of leadership in this article – Command Skill, Standing Alone, managerial courage and I would make the case for composure.
Great article and a good take away on how relationships are forged with trust and support based on character, conviction and courage.
Thanks John and thanks for your service. I’ve heard lots of words over the last few days. Courage and humility seem to rise to the top. Leadership is all about character. A leader without character is an obstacle.
I agree. This was a an example of a watershed moment for a leader. You always have a huge audience watching how you handle this type of situation and it can result in unifying people behind your leadership or totally destroying your ability to lead, depending on what they observe. They won’t ever tell you what the issue was that caused them to either desert or support you, but, just like kids, they are observing every single action you take as a leader in support of his people. It is a powerful leadership lesson to learn and doesn’t mean you can’t address the weakness that caused the error in a much more positive and private way. You can gain the support of even those who don’t like you. It is all about character, the root of leadership. Courage and humility are the observable indictors of character.
As usual, Dan, you focus on the lesson, not the tangential circumstances. Thank you for taking a stand on what can be learned from others, even when we don’t agree with them 100%. Everyone carries a mixture of motivations and understandings and we can all benefit the greater community when we focus on strength and leave a gracious space for everything else. You direct our vision on the higher ground and welcome all to join in the journey.
Thanks cborgstadt. I don’t agree with anyone 100%. Sometimes I think that I don’t agree with myself. Then there are the times that I change my mind. It makes sense to give space for others.
I have a friend who warns me that I can rule out people too quickly. His word helps me. Here’s to learning from others.
As my pastor once said, It’s not good enough to just drop off a casserole when one is ailing or distraught but rather to “Show up and Stand with”. It is sometimes not what you say but what you do – the action of “Showing up and Standing with.”
Thanks Cleteus. Put your money where your mouth is. Love the casserole illustration. Thanks again for jumping in today.
Hi Doug, sometimes, its amazing to just sit there with someone. your presence and willingness to give your time, often says much more than any words that can be spoken.
Wow. That gives me something to think about. As an introvert, it is much easier for me to deliver a casserole and walk away. Maybe I should be hanging around for a while… Makes me think of Job’s friends.
This message is very timely and a tribute to a man I had grown to respect greatly regardless of politics. I’d like to think that I’m loyal, have taken stands for people, took that hard position out of trust and values; and yet, in front of the mirror; I have also taken the easy way out, allowed talk to take place without standing up and let my silence incriminate me in my heart. With your message I am renewed to take each day and each challenge to do the right thing. I am renewed to believe that these choices supersede political positioning (at work) and personal gain. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks Brian. Love the heart in your comment. You remind me that we all fall short in some areas. A little grace goes a long way. Thanks for your openness. I respect it.
Dan, I like your message today. And, I like your closing, “(This post is not . . . )”
Thanks Alan. There are plenty of political blogs where we can all give vent to our political feelings. Have a great week.
Leadership is about demonstrating character. Thank for this, Dan, your contributions are consistently uplifting, timely, and useful.
Integrity is tied to trust on this one. Trust cannot exist with integrity.
Great post Dan! Mr. McCain also stood with Barrack Obama even when they were opponents, it’s just the true nature of a great leader. He said that he was a decent family man, what a class act. Leaders should always take the high road and stick together, you can disagree in private, respectfully. When he did that it bought tears to me eyes. I’ve seen management at my organization do that, and yes, it’s very powerful and it does tell a story of how leaders should lead. McCain was a true fellow Navy Sailor, that I never met, but loved his leadership grit, whit and style. Rest in peace, John Mccain!
Love the post, Dan! To take it one step further a leader not only backs their people but will take the blame if something goes bad. In my organization I am at the top, it stops at my desk. If something went wrong ultimately it is my fault and I will take on that responsibility.
There might be long conversations behind closed doors with the person who made the decision, but ultimately it all comes back to me. It has to and I have to be able to take that responsibility and let my staff know I am there for them.
Thanks so much again Dan. Standing with others develops a leader more than most things. I would add that it can work when a second-chair leader stands with a senior leader too, much as John McCain modeled with Newt Gingrich.
I love the way your posts create a thirst for authenticity in your readers. That’s what I admired in Sen. McCain, and I admire in you! I hope to grow into the same level of authenticity myself!
Leadership is not always or really ever about every one being 100% in agreement .Leadership is about building relationships based on trust and character .These attributes become crystal clear in a leaders actions during tough times. John McCain was a great example of leadership character, relationships and building trust..
I appreciate your ending remarks. This is not a political issue it is a people issue.
Thanks for your daily inspiration and insights
We the people “United we stand”, & United we stand taller together” speaks volumes, as compared to “divided we fall”, which is very true.
Dan, The other point of your article is simply this: we learn about leadership from anyone, good or bad types of leadership, and from both sides of the aisle of political persuasions.
Great article and thank you for being creative as well as timely in your approach.
Thank you for the post. I think John McCain was a true patriot and one of the last of his kind. I think he was also a Statesman who would fight for what he believed but knew how to get along with others. I think this is a true testimony to live leadership. Although I did not always agree with them I believe that he was a true Testament to the greatness of the country. God bless him.