Several years ago, while traveling through Florida, my dear friend called with a business dilemma. “How do I handle this ethical problem with a client.”  Sarcastically, I scanned my iPhone and found no app for ‘moral compass.’ Nope. Nada. Didn’t exist.

In essence, business leaders, generals, foreign dignitaries and presidents alike have found can’t simply Google search ethical doctrine, mouth a political sound bite, and appear real. So, I asked, “If everything went south, would she eat the peanut butter?”

Huh?” she replied.

To highlight my intent, I referenced the peanut butter salmonella case.

In 2009, a salmonella outbreak killed nine people. The ninth fatality, an elderly Ohio woman, occurred during a congressional hearing. At one point in the hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held up a gallon-sized bucket wrapped in yellow crime-scene tape, presumably containing some type of recalled peanut butter product, and asked the business leader whether he would be willing to “take the lid off” and eat any of it.

Sometimes, real leadership is about having to eat the ‘peanut butter.’

Letter 16 was written as a follow-up to that conversation. Unopened since, I found some meaning leaders could use today.


My Dear Friend:

Most business leaders are forever searching for a leadership secret that will vault their company to the stratosphere. Likewise, ever notice how many self-help gurus claim to have the magic bullet for which only they have discovered. At the end today (and every decade) leadership greatness is rare.

In truth, the values that shape what we, as individuals, decide is right or wrong can’t be digested, instantly researched or found in a corporate weekend seminar. The degree to which values and principles arise and again, and the degree to which people accept and live in harmony to those values will either create survival and stability or disintegration and destruction. We see this far too common from political leaders and followers alike willingly and freely accepting disunity.

Lincoln once said “… if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Decisions should not be judged as ‘good politics’ where ‘the path of the least resistance’ has firmly rooted like moss on trees. These types of decisions often lead to ‘peanut butter,’ i.e., a breach of trust.

It’s hard to describe good values. However, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami offered a glimpse.

Rescue Teams searched for the missing along hundreds of miles of the coast, and thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers cut off from rescuers and aid. Japanese citizens patiently waited and passed whatever available water there was, to those who needing it first.

Values are written over centuries. They were created over lifetimes. They were challenged during World Wars, renewed on September 11th, revisited during times of economic uncertainty and political fear, and celebrated during annual harvests, reaping leftovers from a drought-ridden field.

Stephen Covey stated we must develop our value system with deep respect for “true north” principles. If you need a hint, ‘true north’ is about people. Love for thy neighbor is unarguable. As such, for all the years I have known and loved you, your principles are proven. They endured and quite often mirror by young mentors.

From a religious perspective, going back to my theological days, the six major world religions all teach the same basic core beliefs – “you reap what you sow” and “actions are more important than words.”  In today’s world, those professing freedom, are men who want crops without plowing, rain without thunder, the of joy Spring without the heat of Summer. They want ocean breezes but not its storms.

Cloak your decisions in love and you’ll weather most storms. Yup. May have to rebuild a roof here and there, bandage a knee, and morn, but your friends, coworkers, employees, community and I all walk with you.

Truth is, that real life … real values … and real love … is about struggle. There is no ‘true north’ without struggle. However, real love overcomes struggle. And that, my love, is what I believe Christ referenced.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Real love is always with us. And like His, my love is always with you.

Don’t have that? Well, prepare to eat ‘peanut butter.’ Ha!

With all my love … W.