During my visit to Taiwan, I was able to visit two of the county Governors, Hsi-Wei (Joe) Chou from Taipei County and Chiu-Hsing Yang of Kaohsiung County. I observed in both leaders a similar leadership style where people matter.
Each governor hosted a leadership forum in their county that included speeches, a panel discussion about leadership and a luncheon banquet. What struck me was how I learned about their real authentic leadership style. It was not by the remarks given at the leadership forum or by the hospitality shown at the celebration banquet but rather by observing small acts of humanity that shone a light into their REAL leadership.
As Governor Chou and I walked together in the Taipei county government building, we heard someone screaming. As we got closer we saw a distraught man surrounded by four security guards trying to apprehend him. He was screaming that he wanted to speak with the Governor about an indignity that happened to him. He had a letter he had written and was waving it toward the Governor. The security guards, conscious that the governor would soon be passing by with guests, seemed especially aggressive towards the man. Instead of walking past and ignoring the highly uncomfortable situation, the governor walked towards it. He asked the guards to back away and he spoke to the man in a respectful way. He was able to calm the situation by his willingness to treat this distraught man as a human being. He promised to read the letter and look into the situation As we continued to walk together, he shared his leadership philosophy with me. “It is about treating people with respect and showing them you care”, he said. “Whether the man was right, wrong or with mental issues, he deserved the respect of his government and the governor”. This small act showed me more about the governor than any words he said on the panel that day in front of 1,000 of his constituents. It is often the smallest acts that show us someone’s real truth.
I spent Saturday afternoon with Governor Yang in Kaihsiung County. Before the leadership forum, he wanted to show me the market he had created during his time as governor. He was very proud of the economic opportunity now available for his constituents, many who are quite poor. As we walked through the market, I noticed his excitement and pride at every stand and with every product. He never stopped smiling, introducing the vendors (mostly women) and their wares to me. Governor Yang was a clearly beloved figure there. Later in the day at a banquet with women community leaders, the admiration for him was also palpable. His commitment to women and empowerment was a key aspect of his leadership. It was not just his words of leadership that day but his actions. I observed how his progress was mirrored back by the appreciation and respect of his constituents. It is in the eyes of those we serve where we learn most about our leadership.