Welcome Home Joe & Jill Biden:

8 Lessons Learned from the VPs Speech

Lessons learned from the Welcome Home Joe & Jill Homecoming Event – Wilmington Delaware

After decades of public service Joe and Jill Biden returned to Delaware to a hero’s welcome.

Earlier in the day I’d watched our VP Joe Biden during the inauguration ceremony for the next administration, reflecting on how well he represented Delaware.

And wondering why I hadn’t planned to be part of his Welcome Back party at the Chase Center in Wilmington’s Riverfront. Since there’s no time like the present I got my backside in gear & made it down there in time.

Success leaves clues – great speeches from great leaders can help all of us can raise our influence too. Throughout the speech I heard some outstanding takeaways and am submitting them below.

Great leaders remember the little things, the “little” people (who of course aren’t little), and the little gestures. Because it takes little intentional actions compounding over time to get them where they are today.

Joe’s speech was filled with leadership lessons – as he took the time to remember these 8 things.

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1. Joe Remembered His History

It Takes a Leader To Chart The Course

“When you elected me in ’72 you gave me a chance. What makes us unique is we’re a nation of possibilities. If you work at it hard & long enough you can make it.”

The backstory came next as Joe credited key people in his personal history for his success.

  • His sister and brother who helped him transcend a lack of professional help when he started.
  • His sister Valerie who ran his first campaign despite having no money for ads.

Valerie Biden (sister & former campaign organizer) spoke at the event.

Her team covered 80% of households because they were too financially strapped to use the mail.

  • Instead they marshaled 20,000 volunteers to hit Delaware’s streets. There was no possible win without their help.
  • And when it came down to it Joe mortgaged his new house to buy the last 10 days of ads.

The Law of Navigation says that anyone can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course.

In Joe’s case he was successful getting in and staying in politics because he had surrounded himself with other leaders who could run a world class campaign on a nearly non existent budget. And risked everything at the critical moment.

Your Turn –

What’s your story? How can you draw from your own lessons learned to inspire, encourage, coach or mentor that person who’s looking to you for help?

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2. Joe Remembered His Heritage

“Home is where your character is etched, Where your values are shaped, and Where your view of the world is formed.” – Joe Biden

Joe credited both Democrats, Republicans and Independents for partnering to create opportunities for his parents when he was young. He noted that everyone has dreams, not just the rich.

There’s something special about watching heads of state exit their formal leadership positions because they often transcend partisanship. It’s as if they simply want to bring everyone together – regardless of ideology. Perhaps it’s the first time that a leader can truly can make a difference on their own terms, without the considerations of a party line or obligations.

I find it rare and refreshing to witness a leader who can speak in a way that draws everyone together, without partisan rhetoric. And this was a treat.

For example –

  • Jimmy Carter built houses with Habitat for Humanity and became a human rights leader
  • George Bush #41, Bill Clinton & GW Bush 43 collaborated on global humanitarian issues.

I felt no binary divisions – just inclusion – Joe’s back and he’s here to make a difference.

Your Turn –

What values put you where you are today? How can you share those values to help take another person where – and possibly beyond – where you are?

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3. Joe Remembered His Heart

Relationships are the heartbeat of life – and Joe used the relationships in his family and friends to connect with the crowd. Because all of us have relationships and feelings too.

Joe thanked us for being with him in victory and defeat, for embracing his boys and for staying with him in his difficult times. Through the death of his spouse, his remarriage to Jill and the loss of his son Beau, Delaware’s Attorney General. Thousands waited 2-5 hrs to honor Beau’s Biden’s memory after his passing.

If you want to unite people, start with Heart. The challenges, surprises and tragedies of life transcend party lines. Being willing to recall the difficult, tragic, personal, and painful times connects people of every stripe, ideology and class together. Because life happens.

Your Turn –

Though it’s easy to forget, everyone is fighting their own personal battle – circumstances, losses, frustrations, pain. Give others grace and start with heart as we all step into a new future together.

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4. Joe Remembered His Helpers

Leaders go from ME to WE

Joe then flipped perspective, “It’s not about me it’s about you”.

Joe embraces Senator Chris Coons (DE)

Joe didn’t just thank us. He went deeper. He turned the tables. It’s not about him, it’s about us. Our dreams, our challenges, our past, our future.

  • A good leader makes deep connections.
  • A great leader sustains those connections.
  • A transformational leader connects not just for herself but for the purpose of serving others.

Leaders go from Me to We.

Connecting is a remarkable skill. But what’s the ultimate purpose? Transformational leaders build and retain relational equity – and then cashes in that equity in order to challenge you to be come better. To think differently. To become more. To go beyond. That’s what Joe did.

Your Turn –

What can you do to pay it forward? If you’re enjoying margin in your life, why not make a difference in a small way for others?

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5. Joe Remembered Unity

Leaders Connect On Common Ground

One of the most difficult parts of leadership is succession. I know this from personal experience.

When I led a professional organization years ago, I focused on the obvious part of training, delegating and raising leaders. But an equally important part of succession broadsided me. Stepping down and out of the way. From Joe’s comments about being willing to help the incoming administration, it’s clear there is no such blind spot for him.

What impressed me the most was the only self-correction of Joe’s speech. In a empathetic tone he talked about how the experience of the incoming administration is not in government but business. He inadvertently remarked “they don’t know where they’re going” – to which many in the crowd began responding with delight. Delaware being a deep blue Democratic state, this was to be expected.

Reflecting on stage

Instead I saw a pained look on Joe’s face – rather than enjoying the unintended joke, he upleveled the moment. He wanted us to see our national situation, without judgement, to choose to unite and help even those we disagree with. He turned a light moment into a teachable moment. He transcended the binary of left vs right, national vs. Global – in order to inspire us to the goal of unity whenever possible.

Leading from the middle – as opposed to the top or the bottom of an organization – is one of the hardest parts of being a leader. And this only happens when those in the middle add wins to their track record – and then gain moral authority to influence others. Many of us are leading from the middle – with leaders who we don’t always agree with. This is one way to change our reality – and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Leaders Add Instead of Divide

This was a small moment and it was key. Leaders find ways to add value, add people, add growth instead of subtracting. And when you have a global audience as a popular VP, your influence is exponential so that the impact of everything you do is not adding, it’s multiplying. Similarly you don’t have the potential to merely subtract, instead if you’re not careful you can divide. And in times when so many of us default to divisive conversations via social media, it’s easy to slip into this mode. But true leaders rise above differences to unite around things that matter.

The fact that Joe was so aware of the moment in our nation – irrespective of the tone or the political rhetoric of the incoming administration – is evidence of a massive transformation in his journey – and his capacity to raise up other transformational leaders too.

Your Turn –

Stephen Covey said – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

This is a great time to be a leader simply by seeking to understand others without even expecting the same from them right away. You’ll build relational equity that you can use to inspire others to grow too.

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6. Joe Remembered The Low Points – and How To Face Them

“Leaders Are Dealers In Hope” – Napoleon

Joe recalled watching the fires nearly 50 years ago when Wilmington was aflame from riots. He remembered wondering, “could we ever recover?”

Joe didn’t sugar coat our current situation. There are more challenges now than ever before. However he has already been there and can show us the way out.

Resiliency is the key. Dreams backed up with consistent action is the key.

“Ordinary people given half a chance can do extraordinary things” – Joe Biden

The Human Condition

He said – “No matter how you feel, there’s reason for hope. There’s no reason we can’t make America sing again.”

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. – John C. Maxwell

Joe had seen difficult times in his community, overcome multiple tragedies in his family, in addition to being at the forefront of decades of the political stage. He has the moral authority to help others here to overcome the challenges we face in our own state.

Your Turn –

What lessons did you learn in your worst moments that could make the crucial difference for others? Share one today and see how it makes that difference.

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7. Joe Remembered What’s At Stake

Fighting For The Win

Joe talked about his desire to help other countries throughout the world, especially countries where up to 20% of arable land has been polluted by toxins.

Joe’s vision *for* Delaware isn’t limited *to* Delaware. He’s a global citizen. He wants to help everyone win.

Law of Victory says that Leaders find a way for the team to win. What’s exceptional is that Joe’s team extends past Delaware to include the entire world.

  • A good leader enjoys the win, because she didn’t lose.
  • A great leader tempers her elation for those who lose.
  • A transformational leader challenges the paradigm of win/lose.

I was touched to hear Joe fighting for the quality of life for people on the other side of the world, instead of riding into the sunset. With the “America First” messaging from the inauguration earlier that day, a global perspective is refreshing – and more sustainable. I really suspect whether Joe sees not just Delaware but the whole world as his team.

Your Turn –

Is there a bigger picture at work? Are those around you winning a battle at the expense of a larger war? Questions are a great way to gauge the level of awareness of others – and determine their eagerness to change.

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8. Joe Remembered Family

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” Desmond Tutu

The entire homecoming celebration had elements of family throughout. Despite its business-friendly reputation there’s a close knit feeling in Delaware that is unlike any other place in the country.

Throughout the rally Joe treated and talked to all of us like family.

Now it was time for him to recognize, thank and honor his own family.

He brought them up on stage, jokingly rebuked inlaws and extended family still in the crowd and told them to get up on the stage. Moments like these are enormously impressionable not just for the crowd to see his legacy, but also for his grandchildren to experience and become for themselves.

Joe always put family first, even to the point of enforcing this “family value” with his staff. He defended this decision to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last fall.

Screenshot from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon 9-30-16

Your Turn –

Who are the ones closest to you? What one small thing could you think of that would let them know how special they are to you?

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BONUS – So What Happened Next?

Walk Slowly Through the Crowd

Then the biggest surprise of all. Several notables took to the stands to greet the crowd, sign autographs and take photos including event speakers Jill Biden and Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first woman and person of color to represent Delaware in Congress.

(left) Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester connecting with the crowd.

To their credit Senator Tom Carper and U.S. Senator Chris Coons left mid-meeting for a time-sensitive vote back to DC.

(right) Dr. Jill Biden interacting with the fans.

But Joe stayed… and stayed… and stayed some more.

At one point it looked like the escape doors at the far side of the room were there to usher an easy exit.

I’d seen this move before, and it’s totally understandable after a significant time with the crowd.

Joe’s selfie-ninja skills at work with my new friends from the autograph line.

But 5 minutes later I looked again and Joe was on his way back to the other end where the rest of us were. I saw him talk on the phone to the loved ones of fans, have prolonged conversations, and give each person his undivided attention. He stayed at 70+ minutes after the event and nearly everyone else had left.

See It To Believe It

Here’s what it looked like from my spot halfway to the front of the full room:

The Chase Center is big!

Here is what the previously packed room looked like 70 minutes after the end. Joe is still in the photo, connecting with a tiny handful of supporters.

The nearly empty room that had thousands packed inside.

And here’s where Joe was in case you couldn’t find him.

Joe Biden still connecting with people 70+ minutes later.

Your Turn – Action Steps

Getting Practical

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whether you have a leadership title or simply influence others through your own character – you can use these same 8 tips to get results.

I’m repeating them here. Pick *just one* of these small actions today.

Over time if you keep taking small consistent actions – you will be on that path to becoming a good, great, or even transformational leader yourself.

Remember Your History

What’s your story? How can you draw from your own lessons learned to inspire, encourage, coach or mentor that person who’s looking to you for help?

Remember Your Heritage

What values put you where you are today? How can you share those values to help take another person where – and possibly beyond – where you are?

Remember Your Heart

Though it’s easy to forget, everyone is fighting their own personal battle – circumstances, losses, frustrations, pain. Give others grace and start with heart as we all step into a new future together.

Remember Your Help

What can you do to pay it forward? If you’re enjoying margin in your life, why not make a difference in a small way for others?

Remember Unity

Stephen Covey said – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This is a great time to be a leader simply by seeking to understand others without even expecting the same. You’ll build relational equity that you can use to inspire others to grow too.

Remember Your Low Points – and How To Face Them

What lessons did you learn in your worst moments that could make the crucial difference for others? Share one today and see how it makes that difference.

Remember What’s At Stake

Is there a bigger picture at work? Are those around you winning a battle at the expense of a larger war? Questions are a great way to gauge the level of awareness of others – and determine their eagerness to change.

Remember Family

Who are the ones closest to you? What can you do today to let them know how special they are?

I wish everyone could live is such a neat place as Delaware. Although we have challenges just like everyone else, it can be the best of small-town living along with big-city opportunities. I hope that this snapshot into a significant day in the life added value to you wherever you live.

ABOUT NATHAN

Nathan Eckel is the author of Leadership Lessons from Guatemala & has been involved in leadership initiatives on 3 continents. He is a coach, speaker and author who unlocks the brilliance of corporate experts, teams, and individuals for maximum impact and purpose.

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