The text said, “Just wanted you to know Allen Meek passed away yesterday. Donna Jo asked me to let you know. She knew you were pretty close to him while you worked at the high school.”
And just like that, in the blink of an eye and the weeping of tears, I was suddenly whisked back in time, as I remembered the best boss I ever had. He was one of kind and as for me—he set the standard as to what great leadership truly is.
I don’t think I ever told him that he was my favorite boss. (Gosh, I wish I had.) But I sure as heck told everybody else that Allen Meek was my all-time favorite. He was the gold standard when it came to great bosses.
Let me tell you a story.
One morning, I was hurriedly walking down the sidewalk, rushing to get inside the building because I was late. My feet were carrying me as fast as I could go when up from behind came Allen Meek. I glanced over my shoulder and my heart sank. I was busted. I was late. What could I possibly say to my boss? Nothing—there was nothing I could say about my tardiness. So I simply said, “Good morning Mr. Meek.” He said, “Good morning. How are you?” And I said, “I’m late.” He smiled and said, “Me too.”
I will never forget that moment. It is forever etched in my mind. I have told that story hundreds of times. Because, in a world of pettiness and power seekers one man dared to be different, dared to treat his staff not as a “human resource” but as a “human being”—worthy of dignity, and worthy of grace.
But there’s more. At the end of every school year all employees are reviewed—you know—the annual performance review. After years and years of striving to give my best, I came to the realization I was never going to earn five-stars. My best was never going to be good enough because of the long-held philosophy embraced by too many bosses—no one gets a five-star review because there is always room for improvement. I was conditioned to believed that…until I was given the opportunity to work for Allen Meek.
When the end-of-year annual reviews rolled around, nothing could have prepared me for the sincere appreciation that Allen Meek lavished upon his staff. Written in ink, on the official records, Allen Meek generously thanked his staff in the best way possible. He honored his people for their hard work and dedication with stellar reviews—reviews that made one’s heart soar and want to do more. He was a man that knew how to garner a loyalty that could not be bought. What a lesson in leadership!
I remember looking down at my review in total disbelief. Five Stars? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked up and said, “I was late. How did I get a five-Star Review?” He looked me in the eyes and simply said, “You do your job and you do it well. See, I hire adults, not children. And I believe that if the adults I hire do their job, then they deserve five stars. The only people who do not receive five stars are the ones who do not do their job.” That kind of kindness, that kind of leadership, inspires people to want to go above and beyond. Allen Meek was a Five-Star Boss who knew how to inspire Five-star Followers. Wish that the world had more men like Allen Meek.
Rest in Peace Allen Meek—you were my favorite boss.