I grew up in a small town in Monmouth County, New Jersey, what I call Central Jersey on the shore. It was a great place to be raised; I walked or rode my bike to school for 13 years (even Kindergarden!), had a paper route, and babysitting gigs were plentiful to make some spending money. And for most of this time I was quite unaware of the fame of a fellow county resident…..Bruce Springsteen.
Looking back, there are a number of leadership lessons he demonstrated simply by how he lived, as told to me firsthand by classmates, friends, and family.
It was not uncommon to hear on a Monday morning at Red Bank Regional High School that Bruce had picked up one of my classmates hitchhiking to or from the beach. He reportedly was quite friendly and chatty - unlike the passengers who were a combination of star-struck and tongue-tied! Bruce remembered what it was like to need a ride, and was always happy to pay it forward.
A few years on, in the late 80’s my best friend’s husband was in a martial arts class with Bruce. He would spar with The Boss, impressed by his humility in accepting coaching and feedback from the instructor. Bruce was on time, prepared, and followed the same rules as the rest of the class.
Later in the 90’s my Mom had a lengthy conversation with Bruce at Dorn’s Photo Shop in Red Bank. Mom was in line behind Bruce, who was picking up photos from a recent vacation. He excitedly pulled out the shots his young daughter Jessica had taken and showed them to my Mom, one after another, exclaiming with pride about what a good photographer she was. Mom, completely oblivious to the notoriety of the proud Dad, had to be told by the Dorn’s employee just exactly who she had spent the last 10 minutes talking to! There was no air of privilege or ego about him to tip her off….
And it wasn’t just Bruce; the rest of his band seemed just as regular. My high school substitute history teacher was Becky Weinberg, drummer Max’s wife. And on my first day training at Casa Comida, the band’s favorite Mexican restaurant, I walked in to see Clarence Clemens and Steven Van Zandt sitting at a table munching chips!
I never had the opportunity to meet Bruce myself, but this I know: he has earned his reputation as an Everyman, and I’m proud we are fellow Jerseyans!