Jimmy_carterLeaders are change agents.  Leaders live to challenge the status quo.  Leaders gifting calls them to bring transformation.  We know this.  Jimmy Carter’s track record of failures and great successes as a leader are well documented.  He was a change agent for peace in the Middle East. He challenged the status quo of prejudice and racial discrimination.  He continues to bring transformation to homeless families through Habitat for Humanity and to entire countries through the Carter Center.  Carter jokes, “You might say that I haven’t gone too far…I’m still here in Plains, Georgia.”  But perhaps one of the big lessons that I took away from Jimmy Carter is that a leader needs a place to “go hometo.

A Town to Come Home To

I have been to Plains, Georgia and I think Jimmy kind of oversold it in the interview.  Why?  It’s his hometown.  It’s the place where he grew up and it’s the place where he lives till this day.  There is something compelling about a leader who is so comfortable with himself that he doesn’t have to “move up”, but can still live among the same common people that he grew up.  And you get the sense from former President Carter that Plains was not only the place he grew up, but also a place where he could come home to and rather than being President Carter, he was “Hot” or “Jimmy”.  Maybe all leaders need a place and a people to come home to.

A Family to Come Home To

How many leaders finish a lifetime not only as a successful leader but also as a successful family man – not many?  I admire any leader who can find the rhythm of life to be a significant change agent, but also love the same woman for all his days.  Jimmy and Rosalyn were married 61 years ago in 1946.  That is something I admire and that I want to emulate. Even in his toughest hour when the hostages were not going to be released during his Presidency his concern was for his wife who seemed to be taking it emotionally even harder than him.  Could it be – having a family to come home to is what brought Carter the strength to be the greatest ex-President our country has known?  Or could it be that serving his family over a lifetime made him the great leader that he is to this day.

A Faith to Come Home To

When Jimmy stood before the world to accept the Nobel Peace Prize he said much the same thing that he has been saying in the Sunday school class he taught for over half a decade, “I worship Jesus Christ, who we Christians consider the Prince of Peace”.  The faith that informed his values as President, businessman and citizen insisted on peace, reconciliation and following Jesus Christ .  Shifting values to accommodate popularity always leaves me wondering where a leader will stand next; but Carter has a faith he always comes home to.  And that faith informs the direction of his life and leadership.

Former President Carter is one of those people who is comfortable in his own skin.  You get the feeling that whether he is front of Kings or picking peanuts this guy is the same.  It shows up in his self-deprecating humor, “When I told my Mom that I was going to run for President, my Mom said, ‘President of what?’”  It shows up in how comfortable he is with his failures, like being the catalyst for the best-selling Playboy of all-time and his successes, like bringing peace to Israel and Egypt.  Jimmy Carter knows who he is, where he is from, who he belongs to, what he believes and where home is. Leaders need a place to come home to.  Jimmy Carter reminds me why.

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