The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Adventures :In Leadership


Mr. Dan Ashton

July 1, 2012

"Let's suppose you had 20 people dying of hunger. All of a sudden this food truck shows up. Everyone charges except for one person. He helps everyone else up; he holds back-"I will take last'. To me that person is the leader, not the person leading the charge to the food truck. That's leadership: it is just humility."

And with that example, Mr. Dan Ashton, a former English and physical education teacher, as well as coach, and current Trust Administration Officer for Midwest Bank, occasional ACT tutor, and part-time pastor for Raritan Baptist Church, began his explanation and perspective on leadership.

Q: What does leadership mean to you?

A: The simple Biblical answer is humility. Jesus says, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last':How secure you have to be in order to exercise true humility! Insecure people cannot do that. Where does [that] security come from? In the Biblical example, from your relationship in Jesus Christ: Huge difference between this and how the world approaches leadership: pushing people off as you climb the ladder. [That] isn't really leadership at all.

Q: To whom did you look to as a role model or leadership figure while growing up?

A: My biggest role model is Jesus Christ-let's just look at his life-compare him to other religious leaders:Hugely vast difference in how he just operates with people:incredibly different. When you read stories about people who put others first, someone who makes the sacrifice, [that exemplifies leadership]. Look at our soldiers who put so much on the line, [who] give their lives. That kind of thing. More of a quality emulated in Jesus Christ that you end up seeing [in others] and say "wow'.

Q: Can you tell me about your background and resume?

A: Born in Casa Grande, Arizona in 1956, and raised in Arkansas, Mr. Ashton went to college at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AK. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and English, and later a Master of Arts in English at Western Illinois University. He taught English and Physical Education for 19 years in the Union and Southern school districts. Mr. Ashton also coached basketball and was in charge of drama club at Southern for a few years. He is currently a Trust Administration Officer for Midwest Bank, while occasionally helping with ACT tutoring. Mr. Ashton is also a part-time pastor for Raritan Baptist Church. He and his wife, April, are members of Rozetta Baptist Church and served on the deacon board there. He is also a member of Rotary Club.

Q: What are three things you would say to someone about life?

A: 1) Life is about relationships. To me that is just the crux of it. (I) don't know how you get around it.

If you don't take each day and launch from that fact, you must have a pretty miserable day:

2) So even more important than that is everything stems from Christ.

3) The world stinks, but life is great, so get up early and start smiling. I love mornings.

Throughout my entire conversation with Mr. Ashton, one major foundational aspect kept arising: that leadership, that life overall really, is all about the relationships we have and how we strive to develop and grow those relationships.

It was an honor to sit across from Mr. Ashton as he laid out his ideal of leadership: that of humility and a servant's heart. In a world where much of the mentality stems from sayings such as, "Whoever finishes with the most toys wins!" and, "Last one in is a rotten egg!", Mr. Ashton's approach on striving toward a Biblical attitude puts many of those popular views on their head. I believe much can be gleaned from our conversation, but the top three lessons I am walking away with are: 1) make eye contact, shake a hand, develop a relationship, and have an impact on a life, 2) help those around you to become better out of a heart of humility and caring, and 3) smile in the morning and choose the kind of day you will have-your attitude and reaction are completely under your control.