Had we met in any other setting, I would have thought him too young to be a CEO. His eyes afire with anticipation, his speech slightly stilted, his mannerisms cautious, this green idealist bore more the markings of a lamb than a general.
Over the course of a few months, we talked about management, about vision, about hope and perseverance. And one day, when the conversation turned to personnel, he grew quiet and said, “I guess my business philosophy could be summed up in two thoughts: I will always do what is best for the company, and I will always treat people fairly.”
I sat, dumbfounded.
How could this innocent have deduced the meaning of leadership in his first years on the job? Was this a personal epiphany or merely a lesson repeated from graduate school? And why did it have such a profound impact on me?
I have worked with managers of all stripes – as an employee, as a peer, as a consultant and an advisor. But few could articulate the role of a leader so clearly, and even fewer with sincerity. For this young man, leadership was rooted in compassion, and compassion was rooted in faith. He led with grace. He listened with his whole being. He offered without expectation.
His was a special gift, shared only with a small circle of friends and coworkers. Uplifting and kind, clever and never cynical, he was wise beyond his years.
Alex Wooden died suddenly, last month, but his warmth and luster abide in the hearts of those who knew him. He was 30 years old.