Thousands of us knew him.
Most of us could come up with at least one story connecting him to our lives in some way.
Virtually 100% of us were influenced by him and his work, directly or indirectly.
We said goodbye to our dear colleague, mentor, and friend, Dr. Ron Goldman, on August 18. When someone this influential in our midst departs, we do well to pause and mark the time.
What’s your Ron Goldman story? Maybe you attended one of Ron’s presentations over the years. Maybe you worked with him on a project. Maybe you taught alongside him as a fellow faculty member. Maybe you sat in his classroom. Maybe you cut your teeth in assessment on the Goldman-Fristoe (GFTA). Maybe you watched him get one of his numerous awards and observed the man behind the work. Maybe you listened as he expertly wove a story with an important lesson about our business or life in general. Maybe you read one of his papers. Maybe you walked down the hall/street for a moment or two with him at a conference. Maybe you asked for his autograph. Maybe he called you when something in your life occurred. Maybe you shared a meal or one of his best wine recommendations.
Ron Goldman was a scholar, a leader, a visionary, a mentor, and above all, he was a gentleman. His approach to leadership reminded us of Robert Greenleaf’s 1970 definition of servant-leadership:
“The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” (Spears, 1998, p. 1)
This desire to serve his students, clients, and colleagues seemed to stem from Ron’s genuine enjoyment of people and human communication. He loved conversation. His service to individuals led to his service of the profession through tools, training, and time in key volunteer roles. Other leaders have risen from his efforts.
Many have said, “He was one of our best—one of the greats in our midst.” What inspires us to say this? What is the measure of the legacy of a leader? Publications and products? P-values and progress reports? Important items, but maybe not.
Perhaps by remembering Ron Goldman among our “leading leaders,” we are reminded that at our core, we are personal communicators, not just professional communicators. We are as strong as a profession as the service we bring to help each other, and our clients, grow personally and professionally. Our clinical skills are muted unless we apply the amplifier of our humanness. By looking inward, we prepare ourselves for human communication. By looking outward, we lead others to their heights of communication proficiency and excellence.
Our history is as important as our future, and considering both helps us engage in the present. Reflecting on Ron’s contributions demonstrates the importance of building the profession through building people, not just products and policies. Ron’s energy and dependability were matched by his combined gifts of insight and execution. We are the better profession for him. Remember the stories!
Spears, L. C. (Ed.) (1998). The power of servant-leadership: essays by Robert K. Greenleaf. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.