More Lessons from my Husband: The Making of a Great Communicator: Acknowledging Your Supporters

Elizabeth Rice Grossman
October 9, 2014

If I have one piece of advice about leadership, and I have many lessons I can share about this subject, it is to be a great communicator.

Rather, it is critical to acknowledge and respond to the very people, who, because of their own modesty and excess deference to authority, do not expect a person of power to notice an otherwise mundane email or a recorded message of thanks.

For, it is not so much what a leader says or writes, as one of the most celebrated icons of popular culture (more about anon) proves, in his monosyllabic answers to paragraph-long letters of praise and entreaties for secret news, it is not the words themselves that matter (though they often do); it is the decency of the reply that everyone will remember.

I give you the example of one Steven P. Jobs, co-founder of Apple and shaman of Silicon Valley. A man, who, on this third anniversary of his death, still inspires consumers to post their condolences beneath the black-and-white photo of this bewhiskered and bespectacled rock star; the Fifth (or Sixth, after Sir George Martin) Beatle – or, from Apple Records to Apple Inc., with more than a little help from many friends.

To further illustrate this man’s legacy, there are pages and sites memorializing the dates and times of Jobs’ emails. Those notes, which range from a one-word (“Yep”) answer about the iPad and its availability at Best Buy, sent on April 25, 2010, to a kind response to “James,” who lost his girlfriend to melanoma and offered Jobs his thanks for encouraging people to become organ donors, a great communicator is present.

Your [sic] most welcome, James. I’m sorry about your girlfriend. Life is fragile.

Steve

Sent from my iPad

That last bit of correspondence will always resonate for me because, as the wife of another great man, who was also a great communicator and the recipient of a kidney transplant, life is, indeed, fragile; an ethereal moment in humanity’s concept of time, where we strive for immortality through our individual deeds, so someone may say – so I may tell you – here rests a leader of impeccable character, infinite charity and unconditional love.

That man’s name is Dr. A. Richard Grossman.

Judge him by the lives he saved, and celebrate him through the Foundation that perpetuates his virtues.

Follow his style, too, by recognizing your supporters.

From the Desk of a Great Leader: Missives from a Man of Greatness

The style I write of is, in defiance of the stereotype about doctors-as-scriveners-of-illegible-copy, a collection of elegant cards, eloquent comments and everlasting ideals.

The style is deliberative, appreciative and sincere, a handwritten keepsake – to friends, colleagues and patients – from whose inkwell my husband’s artistry as a surgeon translated itself into precise droplets of blue cursive; the regal line of a slanted “R” and the double sweep of a lowercase “m”, the rhythmic flow of my husband’s signature, in which the words above his name (and the words I remember by heart), encapsulate a great man.

In taking the time to voice his thanks and articulate his thoughts, I always see the goodness of Richard because of what I do not see: No egotism. No self-congratulatory rhetoric. No settling of scores. No malice or disrespect whatsoever.

As a leader, Richard’s dignity abounds.

And, while Steve Jobs’ missives may be as ephemeral as the metaphorical cloud in which they reside, I have something tangible from Richard; pressed upon a material of Biblical and ceremonial lineage: Paper.

I can touch the words, and trace (with my finger) the letters of each sentence.

A great communicator puts it in writing.

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