[March 15, 2019] I’ve known Billy Ray for close to 30 years, and he has been a feature in one of the many rural towns where I lived. Billy Ray is not the smartest guy around, and neither is he rich or famous. But he leads a small group of amateur clowns that bring smiles to be needy and sickly children throughout eastern Pennsylvania. One day I asked him why he went to all the trouble. His answer, I work for smiles.
Billy Ray is a leader. Many would disagree that he rates being a leader but I know better. He is the kind of person you can’t say “no” to his request. If he asks, you will deliver. And he does this in the most kind-hearted way imaginable. Billy Ray leads a ragtag, gaggle of clowns every weekend to children in a hospital, orphanage, or some special gathering (e.g., Special Olympics).
It is worth repeated a long-running theme here at theLeaderMaker.com; that leadership is hard but doesn’t require a high education or money. Leadership rests on the principle that the person in charge has a heart and a willingness to care for others. Compassion is necessary but not the sort where we see it becoming the overriding concern. Being a good leader means making good choices.
Billy Ray and his entourage of clowns, have to choose where they go and what skits they act out. His acts are in demand but, like any smart leader, he has priorities that he somehow developed in his younger years. For example, he will go to see terminally ill children first. That is where he does the most good. He tells me that nothing matters more than a child about to die and you see them smile, ear to ear.
Clowns work for many reasons and lately, some of them have given their profession a bad reputation of fear. Billy Ray doesn’t work this way. He receives no money for his efforts; he takes care of his expenses out of pocket. The planning, prioritization, assessing the need, and using past lessons figures into every event he attends.
Why do clowns work? Just like Billy Ray tells me, they “work for smiles.” In a way, we are all like Billy Ray; we strive to become leaders because we care about others.