“A Mindful Leadership Story by Dale Moss”
“People don’t care how much you know — until they know how much you care.”
– John C. Maxwell
There are many things that make up a great leader but, to me, there is a common strand that binds great leaders together. It’s caring. I have seen pyramids, trees, and all sorts of diagrams that overcomplicate what good leadership looks like. Of course, character, commitment, confidence, and competence are all essential qualities — but without caring — they are sterile.
Throughout my career, I have always tried to embody this critical element of leadership. The times I have demonstrated a sense of empathy and caring for the teams I have had the privilege to lead were the moments I felt most successful.
I have chosen to reflect on the people in my life who — by action — showed me what caring and leadership were really about and in the most profound way, set the stage for my leadership style.
I grew up on Long Island and attended St. Anthony’s, a Franciscan high school. The school was located in Smithtown with an enrollment of only 300 students. Brother Bernadine, our Principal, personally greeted every single student by name…- each and every day – as they got off the bus! Regardless of the weather, he stood outside in his cape, rain or shine, hot or cold, and greeted us every day. He knew each student’s name and how they were doing. Brother Bernadine was an impressive man who cared about his students, and we knew it.
One particular memory stands out in my mind…one day, Brother Bernadine pulled me aside and mentioned that my Mom had not sent in my monthly tuition. He casually told me, “Tell your mom there is no need to worry, just send it in next month.”
What I learned about leadership from Brother Bernadine was that he was loved and respected not only for being the Principal, but also for being a caring man. He led from the front, and as a result, his students would have gone through a brick wall for him. We were a family with a culture unlike any school my other friends attended. It was simple – Brother Bernadine cared; he showed it; and we all knew it … a great formula.
Coach Archie DeMarco
Archie DeMarco was the Athletic Director and Varsity Baseball Coach at St. Anthony’s. He was a retired naval officer and had also played for one of the Cincinnati farm teams before joining the Navy. Coach DeMarco was a great guy, clearly in charge, tough when he needed to be and (almost) always with a smile on his face.
I loved baseball with all of my heart and played junior varsity as a freshman. So, when the Spring of my Sophomore year arrived, I was excited to try out for the varsity team. While St. Anthony’s was a small school, we still had a competitive baseball team. And, every few days, during tryouts, a list was posted in the locker room with the guys who were still on the team. As I made it through three or four cuts, I remained hopeful.
Coach DeMarco knew both baseball and young men. One afternoon, he came to my classroom and asked if he could have a few words with me. As we walked, he put his arm around me and said, “Kid you need playing time and, while you could make the team, I think it’s best if you stay with the junior varsity team and get playing time. There are juniors and seniors who will probably play ahead of you. I’m going to need you in the next two years, but you need more playing experience.”
This was potentially a moment of huge disappointment for me, but you know what? I wasn’t terribly crushed because Coach DeMarco cared enough to come to me, explain the situation, and ask for my support. He certainly didn’t have to do that, but he clearly cared, and I am forever grateful. He took the sting and embarrassment out of the situation and encouraged me to keep working. As it turned out, he really was a genius because his decision to keep me on the junior varsity team worked out for the best. In fact, Coach DeMarco helped secure me a baseball scholarship to Fordham University and I could go and on and how that experience impacted my life…
My Dad is the toughest, softhearted guy I have ever known. And it took me many years to see, appreciate, and understand this wonderful combination of seemingly opposites styles. He grew up during the Depression in a difficult family environment and joined the Navy at sixteen years of age during World War II. When I was growing up, Dad scared the heck out of me because he looked tough and took discipline seriously. In fact, everyone thought Dad worked for the FBI. But, underneath, he was a real softy.
Toward the end of my senior year in college, I was struggling to find a job. Having gone to several interviews without any success, I felt sorry for myself and started moping around the house. This went on for several weeks, and Dad had had enough. I was sitting in our living room reading when Dad walked in, a big book under his arm. He sat next to me and said,“Son, I know you are having a tough time and your Mom and I feel for you. We are prepared to help out in any way we can. But, if you’re looking for sympathy, it’s under ‘S’.” He dropped a big dictionary on the coffee table and left the room. In one instance, he showed me two contrasting styles – deep caring and self-reliance.
“People don’t mind being challenged to do better if they know the request is coming from a caring heart.” — Ken Blanchard
Throughout the years, I have discovered that we truly learn life’s important lessons in situations like the ones I just shared. I have been blessed to have people in my life who have demonstrated caring in different situations, and it is their actions that have enabled me to achieve whatever successes I have enjoyed and to better lead. I look back in deep appreciation to these loving, kind, and confident people and to many others who took the time to care.
Dale Moss has held several leadership positions in the airline industry, including CEO, OpenSkies; COO, Jet Airways India Ltd; Chairman, British Airways Holidays; and Director of Sales Worldwide for British Airways, where he led 12,000 employees and was known for building great teams and delivering extraordinary results. He is currently President of Dale Moss Consulting Ltd.
On a personal note, Dale has been married to Kathi Moss for 41 years, has five grown children, and ten beautiful grandchildren. Dale recently shared, “there is no question – my life’s most important work – is my family. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams and remain forever grateful.”
I met Dale Moss when I worked under his leadership at British Airways…He was inspirational, a terrific story teller, grateful, and always brought out the best in us. Dale always cared and, because he cared, we were motivated to reach our potential and do what was best for the organization. When I left British Airways, Dale told me I would always be welcomed back, and he continues to mentor and support me in my career.