Monday, September 27, 2021

2012 - Semper Gumby Leadership

A great lesson in leadership

“Semper Fi” is the Marine Corps motto and while I have never been a Marine, I have had the opportunity to work with several over 40 summers.

For eight of those summers I have had the honor and privilege of having Steve “Tigger” Waterman as part of what John Maxwell calls my inner circle at camp.

“Tigger” reminds me often, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” He has spent the last 18 or so years working in the camping world adding value to whatever team he has been a part of.

Tigger’s approach to the world is a big part of my learning as well. He has a great way with young people and this big, tough Marine is as gentle and flexible as they come. He has in his work volunteered the better part of many winter Saturdays with teens at a local store selling candy bars to help them earn their way to camp.

On one occasion, he arrives at the store, which our office arranged to have a table display in the lobby area. Did I mention that it was winter…winter in Buffalo?

Anyway, the store had no record that we were supposed to be there. He called and calmly rearranged everything and made it happen with the store manager. And he made sure that the teens took turns sitting in his car for warmth while they rotated out to the store entry while he stayed there the entire time himself supporting their endeavor. This is the essence of “Tigger.”

Tigger (Pictured Left) with Camp Nurse (R)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

At camp (during Outdoor Education season) when a school would arrive late, or when it rains, or when someone calls in sick - name the circumstance - Tigger would  make things happen in calm, cool and collected sense. He will rally the staff around the trouble and he stays as flexible as the old 60’s clay-mation show “Gumby.”

He is a leader who adapts and inspires other to do so as well. With that he takes customer satisfaction to a higher level. Many parents, school teachers, staff, chaperones and campers adore and admire his abilities. So, if you can imagine this big burly Marine guy with a goatee standing around saying “you wanna buy a candy bar to help kids go to camp this summer?”

Steve would also help lead through his examples of service to others. One of the long time camp program activities was a game called "Dutch Auction." It is one of those cross camp activities where all age groups participate from youngest to oldest; typically by cabin/age group. Ultimately as scores are added up by the judges, Steve always made sure that the youngest campers score was slightly skewed higher. His philosophy was, "when do the youngest kids ever get to win anything." In our truly modern world that we live in; it may seem an unfair bias. 

Clare Trageser states (writing for PBS SoCal), "Creativity researchers ... say that's actually creative problem solving, to come up with new directions," she says. "And so kind of letting them play along with that is interesting. But maybe rather than having them moving the goalposts during a game, changing the rules on the spot, what I could do is say, 'OK, so why don't we set up the rules this way this time, and we don't have to play by the same rules we did last time. We can do different ones next time, but what are the rules for today?'"

It is this that I am grateful as he adapted a servant leader attitude to every situation. And I have adopted and learned his motto as one of my own. I am grateful for Steve as I have moved on this journey of 50 plus years in these United States. “Semper Gumby.”

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