All week I’ve been hearing and reading deeply felt sentiments of admiration for John McCain, who left the physical plane this week. So many have written and spoken so eloquently about him, his service, passion, integrity and humor.
In our current time, we have to recognize that McCain was a compelling leader, one we will miss, because we aren’t seeing a lot of positive, expansive leadership; rather most of our leaders work from fear or from ego, or both.
In adult development terms, we build an ego in the conventional part of our journey. It’s absolutely necessary for development. Then, we watch it thin out as we move into post conventional meaning-making, but it never goes away. Indeed, leaders need a good strong ego to do great work, not for the sake of their ego, but for the sake of being able to believe in something larger than themselves, larger than ego gratification, and to have faith in what they can’t yet see.
So, I want to call out that from the standpoint of stage theory, McCain had an ego; and it helped him stand up for what he believed was right. And, he could let it go. He didn’t always have to be right, the smartest, the best, the only. He was evolved. His ego was not his enemy.
McCain is one of the few leaders I’ve seen during my lifetime who could engage in self-observation and self-reflection, and hold himself accountable. He was responsible for his thinking, his choices, and to and for others, including holding a sense of deep responsibility for this beautiful country we live in. He was open enough and extraverted enough to share his capacity to shift perspectives and, with humility, admit his mistakes. This sets him apart. He was public. He didn’t hide. He also refrained from blaming others, but rather, held them accountable to a higher standard. Stage-wise, the idea of being able to act for the greater good, based on deep self-reflection and giving up ego, rarely occurs with conventional mindsets. Rather, it takes someone with expansive capacity to trust that being honest, transparent, and owning his own misguided-ness will be received and noted. Role modeling. He was an ace at that.
So, his story, his presence, his humility, his capacity to embrace and befriend ‘other’ constitute a gift to us that we can hope will endure. Let us remember this good man, and may his strength as a role model rub off on at least a few of today’s elected officials. Thank you, John McCain.