When asked to list examples of leaders that influenced you in life, who do you put at the top? Dad, Mom, Grandparents, Coach, Teacher? When I ask this question these are almost always at the top. If you ask me, it would be my Dad.
My Dad served my family (continues to today) by being the go-to, do-it-all, never complaining kind of leader. I remember as a teen-ager, I asked “don’t you ever get tired of doing everything?” for everyone in the family. You see, he was the only one in our family with a driver’s license because, well, his dad was the only one in his family that drove a car. You kinda get the picture, I grew up in a very “greatest generation” type household. My Mom had the hard job of raising me and my two brothers (monumental task). Back to the question, My Dad replied, “someday son, you’ll understand. I do what I do, because I love you and our family.” He was right on when he insinuated I didn’t understand.
I didn’t for quite some time. It’s funny how he went from looking like a slave to the family, to being the biggest leader influence in my life over the next 15 years. It all came clear to me when I had promoted to Captain. I was reflecting back on my young career, of how I got to where I was. One thing that stood out, were my evaluations leading up to that day which had indicated I would have great difficulty in leading crews. The slam (to my ego) was that I couldn’t be a good leader if I was too close to my direct reports. No detail on accountability or past successes, just the belief that you surely can’t lead someone your friends with. (Light bulb moment)
Then I remembered my Dad. His leadership style was very loving and personal but yielded great influence. My brothers and I were best disciplined by dad’s disappointment, (other times with a stiff paddle). We knew when we had gone beyond dad’s expectations, all it took was to see the disappointment on his face. His sincere love for us was so enduring, we never wanted to taint it. I also saw his convictions to do whatever someone needed, not asked for. I remember him saying, “I like doing for others.”
Leadership is how to be, not how to do. (Frances Hesselbein)
I wonder now if his fulfillment was that he saw his influence as leadership (not)? (another lesson there) or that his satisfaction in life was derived from knowing he was able to make situations better for others? Wow, what a great concept for a public safety delivery model, one that I am slowly realizing to be my true purpose. Like my dad, I have trouble seeing myself as a leader. What I do is what I feel to be right and enjoy doing. Today, I’m trying to align my actions with “leadership” philosophy. Mainly because I don’t want to screw things up!
A leader that influences with love and care will have a great following. Isn’t that what it’s all about? (me, and probably some chinese prophet.)
In asking students in my leadership classes, “who most influenced your leadership style?” they always recount their influence to be those that cared about them personally. “Personal Histories: Leaders Remember the Moments and People That Shaped Them (Harvard Business Review, December 2001),” Think about yours.
Although servant leadership wasn’t the “greatest generation’s” prominent style, many were born with a servant’s heart. I’m very blessed to still have my Mom and Dad in my life. When anyone talks of my Dad, it’s with that “awe, we just love him” sentiment. He still, and probably always will, influence people in his life, my life, my brother’s and hopefully yours. Thanks Dad, for the greatest leadership lesson in my life.
Future blog, My Mom’s creative, confidence building influence!!