My mentor, my hero of 23 years, Dwight Hill, passed away last April. Dwight had run the race of life and finished so well. We, his family, friends and mentees, celebrated how he poured his life into men like me.
You see, Dwight was the best mentor a man could ever have. He didn’t need a certificate to be a mentor coach. He just did what he was called to do and did he do it with passion – mentoring men to become the leader they were called to be. The mentor qualities of Dwight were those gleaned from a life of an overcomer, a deep faith, and the attitude of a servant leader. When he mentored, he was in his strength zone.
What did I learn from this great mentor that radically changed many a man’s life for the better? Read on. I say with conviction Dwight changed me more positively and for the better than any person in my whole life.
A Man of Integrity
Dwight was a man of pure solid gold integrity. To paraphrase Dr. John C. Maxwell, Dwight was a man whose words and deeds matched up, true to his beliefs no matter where he was or who he was with. Dwight had nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose. And when necessary, he called a spade a spade when we needed to clearly hear reality and truth.
He was an Overcomer, a Giant Slayer
Great mentors have gone through life trials, struggles, and hardship. Dwight was no exception. As an overcomer, he slew the giants in his life so that he could help men slay theirs: many of us had father wounds, bitterness, pride, lust, greed, addictions or broken relationships. Dwight gave us the amour to slay those character defects that hindered us from being the leaders we were called to be.
He was a Navigator of Men
Dwight had his antennas up all the time looking for those special men that were rough diamonds who needed some help to brilliantly shine. Dwight’s passion made him a “Navigator of Men.” For all the men he grew, he saw more in us, before us, and farther than us. He had a vision for each of us, navigating each of us to be the man we were called to be.
He was a Relationship Healer
Life is made of relationships. Dwight had what I might call “Relationship EQ.” Dwight was a healer of relationships, helping us develop healthy ones, jettison toxic ones, and let go of our need to control so we could learn to risk and love others more. Dwight showed me how to not be judgmental so I could love others, warts and all. He demonstrated his gracious love of others so I too could too focus on healthy relationships rather than my egotistical self.
He Loved Me Unconditionally
Many men strive to be valued by their performance. If we achieve, make the bucks, compete, well maybe, just maybe, we will be acceptable, respected and loved by family, friends and society. Dwight, though, was not interested in my performance. He always loved me unconditionally so that I could learn to love others with that same gracious love he showed me. Dwight taught me how to love.
He was a Loving Husband and Father
Many of us came from dysfunctional or broken families. As we married and had kids, we found for the first time we need to learn to be a loving hubby and daddy. The example and baggage we had from our upbringing may not have been the best teacher. Dwight was a living breathing loving husband and dad. People do what people see. We could clearly see Dwight was the gracious loving family man we needed to be. My daughters and wife are with me today, warts and all, in a loving family because of Dwight.
He was a Purveyor of Affirmation
One of the strongest messages Dwight gave each man was “I believe in you, I know you can reach your full potential!” How many of us men never heard this refreshing, inspiring affirmation until we heard it through Dwight’s words and care for us? He gave each of us hope and from that hope gushed forth meaning.
He was our Tour Guide
You were never Dwight’s pet project, him being your “Mr. Fix You.” He was like your life “Tour Guide” in the boat with you as you paddled down the river of experiences unique to your journey of purpose. He kept the boat steady when you were ready tip or bail so you could reach the final destination with no regrets, finishing well.
He Allowed for Failing Forward
Dwight worked with imperfect, damaged men. We fail. We would sometimes fall and rewind those destructive “tapes” of the past. Dwight’s wisdom, persistence and patience helped each of us to fail forward. There were two caveats from Dwight, though–we too had to get up out of the rut, make amends when possible then be humble and teachable enough to learn and grow from our failures. When we were motivated to change, Dwight was there to help.
He was a Multiplier
Dwight’s had an uncanny ability to mentor men to become multipliers. He turned men into leaders “who make a difference with people who also want to make a difference” (Dr. Maxwell). His mentorship always inspired us to go beyond the comfort of our comfy lives and stretch out as leaders to share the message of servant leadership to other young men. He was not into addition, he was always multiplying…us men.
Dwight had a Purpose Bigger than Himself
There’s a Beatles song called “Nowhere Man.” Dwight was never a “Nowhere Man.” He was a man of purpose and vision. His purpose was much bigger than himself. He took us “Nowhere Men” under his wing and molded us through unselfish love, faith and conviction to become men of purpose. You may have surmised, Dwight’s purpose was to raise men as leaders of purpose and give all the glory to God.
I learned and adapted a prayer from Dr. John Maxwell. It paints the life of Dwight Hill.
Lord, as I grow older, I want to be like Dwight …
Thoughtful, rather than gifted,
Loving, versus quick or bright,
Gentle, over being powerful,
A listener, more than a great communicator,
Available, rather than a hard worker,
Sacrificial, instead of successful,
Reliable, not famous,
Content, more than driven,
Self-controlled, rather than exciting,
Generous, instead of rich,
And compassionate, more than competent,
I want to be a foot-washer, just like Dwight.
I hope and pray, you too, find a mentor like Dwight to reach your full potential as a leader with purpose.