Adam Bojelian was a remarkable person. That was clear for everyone who attended the celebration of his life in Tadcaster yesterday. The celebration was a perfect reminder of the beauty of his poetry – cousin Lara reading The Green Fish was a personal highlight – and the tributes came from across the globe for someone who touched the hearts of many with his can do attitude. A fifteen year old boy who wrote poetry by blinking and captured the imagination of anyone he came across.
Adam was a “No Excuses” role model. The photographer Paul Clarke read “My Creation Myth” and prefaced it with this statement – so simple and true. Adam had every reason to not do his homework, be bitter about life or let his challenges get him down. Instead he approached life with glee, never making excuses. For him “every colour was perfectly placed”. And a duff joke or two was always at hand.
Alongside people like Lara and Paul, I was privileged to be asked to be one of the 15 people to read one of Adam’s poems and say a few words. The poem was Leadership – something I commissioned for the NHS Confederation Conference in 2014. I needed something to set the tone for the whole of the leadership in the NHS and Adam responded brilliantly. He gave us something that defined good leadership and challenged our perceptions about the potential of people.
I read the poem and new that it was right, it was wise and it was clever. A challenge to the reader to be a better leader. It was exactly what was needed and I shared it on Twitter. It was read and retweeted widely. Some time later, someone pointed out that the poem’s puzzle had been solved. It was not just a challenge to the reader but also spelled my name down its spine. I had missed this completely and it was something I won’t forget – one of those moments that catches you inside and is truly humbling and a personal challenge to me to be a good leader too.
Subsequently the poem has had a life of its own. It was a wow at the Confederation Conference receiving spontaneous applause from around 1,000 delegates. The Leadership Academy have used it in their work. NHS Employers have used it in their Equality and Diversity work. It is shared widely. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
Maybe one day I will be as good as the leader it challenges me to be. What is clear is that Adam was a leader and a role model. And I wanted to give a gift to Adsthepoet and his family in return. So here it is – the poem I wrote for Adsthepoet to celebrate his leadership – my no excuses role model:
Leadership (For Adam Bojelian)
This rhyme solves a puzzle, as you will see
This rhyme confirms what a good leader should be
A good leader aspires to be the best
A good leader debates and challenges the rest
A good leader speaks up against poor care and injustice
A good leader teaches us to cast off our prejudice
A good leader helps us to see the funny side
A good leader engages and shares what’s inside
A good leader puns (I know it’s not quite a requirement)
A good leader is open to risk and excitement
A good leader energises all that they touch
A good leader transmits our dreams back to us
Now, this poetic trick has been played before
Look closely and you’ll know whose name is worn
At the heart of this poem
No surprises this time
No poetic reveal
Yet the power of art
Weaves a subtler knife through our hearts
The echoes of good leadership last forever
They beat its rhythm for a lifetime
Listen carefully to yours
What do you hear now in its pulse?
Adam, Adam, Adam, Adam
If you think this is sad and solemn, it’s not meant to be. Kirstie Stott ended the celebration with the poem happiness. Perfect. As was her wordle of the three words Adams’ twitter friends had provided her with. Her choice was for her boys to “be like him”.