What My Father Taught Me About Great Leadership!

How did a father pass on his love for great leadership?How did a father pass on his love for great leadership?

What makes great leadership resonate with so many people? There are thousands of leadership books published every year.  Tens of thousands of blogs have been written about the topic.  With Father’s Day weekend approaching, I thought I’d share why am I so fascinated by the subject of great leadership.

My father loved to share stories about the many different leaders he’d known in his life. He always had interesting insights into their personality and their leadership styles. He was a gifted storyteller.

He used to play a game with me when I was growing up about leadership. He’d ask: What did you notice about that person?  What does it mean? How does what you saw influence how you would work with them? How would they respond to a challenging situation?

I’ve played this game since I could talk and It lasted until he died. Over 40 years of the game. Sometimes when I coach a well-known leader, I hear my dad asking the questions after my coaching sessions with them. We always loved talking about great leadership.

My father taught me how to read and understand people very quickly. He taught me how to get people to share honestly. He taught me how to discern and not judge what I was hearing. He taught me how to remove my own biases from what I was being told without judgement. That I was not likely to ever completely understand what the person had gone through. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was preparing me to become a great coach.

Here are some of those leadership lessons that have lasted a lifetime. I hope you they help you reconnect with your own great leadership this Father’s Day weekend.

The first element of great leadership is you must be open to leading. I’ve spent time with many great leaders over the years and I haven’t met many who chose not to lead in their lives. This doesn’t mean every leader is the same, but these people have chosen to be leaders in their families, communities, and their organizations. This doesn’t mean they don’t follow others, it just means they are comfortable in a leadership role.

The second element of a great leadership is they work very hard to earn and keep the trust of others they interact with. Trust is a hard thing to earn, but can be lost very quickly. One of my favorite coaching questions is:  Where does trust start? Most people are so busy looking at the other person, they fail to see who they have become in the mirror.

The third element of a great leadership is they have courage. Personal courage is the most powerful element in a life well lived. It’s very easy to have conditional courage. Courage that takes the easy position in dealing with others. True courage comes from taking the tough stands and risking unpopularity with friends and, sometimes, family.

I was taught by my father that true courage happens when you are willing to die for you believe. I strive to remember this when dealing with powerful people and situations and I’ve never been disappointed with the results I’ve gotten.  He taught there is nothing wrong with challenging a person’s perspective on things.  Healthy debate is the hallmark of strong relationships. However, once a decision is made, put all my efforts in helping the person succeed.

The fourth element of great leadership is always learning new things. Personal growth and expansion are the hallmark of great leadership. If you’re not learning, you’re dying.  All my best clients are lifetime learners. It may be the only common quality they all share. It allows them to remain influential and persuasive throughout their lives.

Great leaders go through life with the curiosity of a child. They are not afraid of asking questions and exploring all their options, it’s what makes them successful. How many times have you failed because you didn’t ask the questions you needed.

The final element of great leaders is they have a sense of humor about what is happening in their lives. Great leaders understand humor can build bridges to just about anyone. I work with my coaching clients to see the humor in their most challenging situations. It puts them on the path back to becoming better leaders.

So, this Father’s Day, I fondly reminisce about one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever known, my dad. The man who taught me about leadership throughout our lives together.  Happy Father’s Day!

See you next week.

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