A Tale of Two Bobs

Column: Guest Editorial
by Tricia Diduch

Bob O’Brien resigned as Executive Director from the Chicago Rockford International Airport on Tuesday. Like the prick of a balloon, the rising optimism and hope felt as the Rockford region came together to support Embry Riddlle deflated. The general mood in the air? Defeat. And defeat by our own hands.

I do not know all that much about Bob, but I do know he achieved and inspired results that turned our airport into a national player and fostered a new Rockford region identity as a burgeoning aerospace innovator and manufacturer. Bob fostered results that backed the most recent name change, Chicago Rockford International Airport. The Greater Rockford Airport’s statistics became a relic: from 630th place in national passenger service at the beginning of his appointment to 215th place in 2007. By that same time, residents benefitted from a 62% tax rate cut to the Greater Rockford Airport Authority, despite the airport continually adding increased infrastructure and technology.

Bob’s lasting effect on me will not be these above statistics. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak  – once. He was supposed to be talking about transportation, but his speech quickly delved into passion and leadership. Bob leaves one with no doubt that every day he wakes up ready and willing and excited to go to work at the airport. He followed his passion – wanting to be a firefighter – and it morphed into a career (by way of airport emergency rescue) that he believes in. His passion is his foundation; upon that foundation he used experience, initiative and desire for positive results to build a content life and a paycheck.

Then Bob said it, “Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.” I have heard it before, I will hear it again, but that day, it sunk in. It is not egotistical to be a good leader. Nor is it lazy to be a follower. Which are you? If you are a leader, be the kind of leader who inspires those around you to take initiative to achieve the positive results you want to accomplish. If you’re a follower, find someone who inspires you to take initiative in his /her goals, who carries and conducts themselves in a manner that you want to emulate. If you are neither, do some soul-searching. Lacking a passion? Find it. You have one, you just have not yet  exposed yourself to some cause, some person who inspires you. If you are not willing to do that? Frankly, get out of the way.

Which leads to the tale of the other “Bob.” Bob Mullins, retiring Village Administrator of the Village of Machesney Park, is a man whose leadership style I strive to emulate. Bob will tell you he is not leader; he just wants to see people achieve their potential. He sees in you what maybe you forgot was there all along. He dishes out praise generously – when it is deserved. He fosters the often-mentioned “outside the box” thinking but rarely implemented. He values initiative and ingenuity. He sees the flower; he does what he can to make it bloom.

I gladly admit that I am a follower of Bob Mullins. When I moved to the Rockford region to become the Village of Machesney Park’s village planner, I was defeated. My dreams of making the world a better place to live and work had died a long time ago. “The Man” had gotten me down. I questioned my chosen career as an urban planner, deciding the name should change to “Paper Pusher” or “Most Hated Village Employee.” Frankly, the decision to apply for the job was merely out of a desire to be closer to my three nieces and nephew. And then I spoke to Bob, and he sold me on the Village, on the office environment of innovative thinking, the policy of out-sourcing everything the Village can to stay fiscally sound. Slowly, I felt my adolescent dreams rising from the dust. He encouraged my desire to become an active participant in the community. He may not be, but I’m pretty sure he is my biggest cheerleader (shhh… don’t tell my parents!).  The best aspect of Bob’s leadership? It is not a codependent relationship. When Bob leaves, I will be sad to see him go, but he will have finished his job. He will have left me with the tools and resources to keep “blooming.”  He has indirectly given me faith: faith in myself and whatever future endeavors on which I embark, faith that my future will be bright, and faith that it will be pursuing my passions.

And so this “Tale of Two Bobs” comes to a close. Lead. Follow. Find and nurture your passions. Build a solid foundation upon your passions and capitalize upon it. Find leaders who inspire you, and become their followers. Find your leadership style, be it Machiavellian or Michael Scott. And at the end of the day? Be content that even if you never know it, someone has “bloomed” because you were in their life.


~ by Mika Doyle on April 1, 2011.

One Response to “A Tale of Two Bobs”

  1. Great post, Tricia!! These two are great examples of Rockford leaders. How many lives they’ve touched!


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