Philadelphia lost a real-life leader today with the death of Joey Vento, the owner of Geno's Steaks.
Joey Vento was a local legend and a champion of the American Dream. He was an American success story -- a hugely successful businessman, a generous, helpful neighbor and a courageous citizen who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in. In an age when authenticity is hard to come by, he was the Real Deal. In many ways, he epitomized the spirit -- the heart and soul -- of Philadelphia.
Joey may not have considered himself a leader but he was exactly that. And he encouraged, inspired and cheerfully supported many others who needed help.
Like I said, Joey was authentic. And that made him more credible than most of the city's better educated, finer coiffed and better dressed politicians and business, civic and community leaders -- many of who never learned or long since forgot what it means to be "real."
Joey understood that being authentic and remaining true yourself is hard work.
And no one worked harder than Joey.
It takes discipline to succeed. Joey knew who he was -- and what he wanted. And he wasn't afraid to work for it AND be himself..
Yes, authentic leaders know who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin. Their own quiet, practiced belief in themselves is what moves them to inspire others.
And they do that by first spending lots of time really listening to the people they hope to inspire. Joey listened to his customers and his neighbors and his fellow citizens. He heard them. And he set a fine example for them.
In a world full of cowards, genuine personalities are called on to chart new paths, take risks and even show a bit of old-fashioned courage now and then. Joey was fearless.
Authentic people are imperfect. They're distinctive, quirky and even eccentric.
Joey Vento was all of those things.
And we loved him for it.
Thanks, Joey! We will miss you.