BRADENTON -- The people Bob Delaney spoke about so passionately Thursday morning were not the mobsters he helped imprison after working undercover for the New Jersey State Police in the 1970s.
They weren’t the NBA stars he’s officiated over the past 25 years, either.
Rather, they were the community leaders who filled the Bradenton Auditorium for the fourth annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast to benefit Take Stock in Children of Manatee County.
People like Julie Aranibar, Bob Bartz, Maura Howell, Harry Kinnan, Paul Maechtle and other public officials, educators and businessmen and women who listened raptly to the NBA referee and author’s entertaining and enlightening 45-minute speech.
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“What’s taking place in this room is leadership,” said Delaney, 59, while walking among the crowd, microphone in hand. “Folks stepping up as sponsors, mentors. People here with the students they mentor and giving of their time. Everyone plays a role in the leadership process.”
A process that is fluid and should be inclusive to be most effective, said the Lakewood Ranch resident.
“One thing so important about understanding leadership is understanding everyone’s role. There are leaders, followers and collaborators and those roles change within the leadership process -- a process that brings together people with mutual concerns, willing to work together to create real change. Being a follower is OK, because when we follow true leaders that is a good thing,” he said. “I have found true leaders are willing to be led.”
Delaney’s message resonated across the room and the dais that included Bishop Frank Dewane, of the Catholic Diocese of Venice; Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston; Schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal; Jennifer Singer, a para-rabbi at Congregation Kol HaNeshama; and Sandy Buchanan, wife of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.
“Leadership is giving of yourself and getting out your own way and meeting the needs of others,” said Aranibar, the first-year school board member.
“Leadership is an honor and a privilege. It’s something you keep working towards,” Singer said.
“He pushes you out of any complacency you might feel and you realize it’s an ongoing process,” said Kinnan, longtime school board member and retired basketball coach.
“He helps recharge your battery and get you going again, try to help kids in more ways than just football,” said Maechtle, Southeast High’s longtime athletics director and football coach.
Communication is also vital to the leadership process, Delaney said.
“We are not really good at listening,” he said, making his point with an anecdote that had people chuckling and nodding in agreement.
“How many times are you at a cocktail party, you’re having a conversation with somebody,” Delaney said. “He triggers something in my mind that I want to say. So I stop listening and all I need is to wait for him to take a breath so I can jump in with what I want to say. We can learn to be better listeners.”
Amen, Bob Bartz said.
“He reminded me we need to listen more and talk less,” said the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
Technology has eroded our ability to talk to one another, Delaney said.
“Today with e-mail and texting we’ve become abrupt in our conversations,” he said. “We don’t say, ‘How are you?’ Or, ‘Thank you.’ The best bosses I ever had knew more about me as a person instead of the employee. We can make a difference by asking what’s going on in someone’s life.”
Maura Howl agreed.
“I was touched how he had each of us reach inside ourselves to see where we’re going too fast and how we need to slow down, to really be conscious of what we’re saying and what we’re doing,” said the Manatee Technical Institute grants and marketing specialist. “What we say and doreally affects other people.”