What Can Grandfathers Teach Us About Leadership Today?

What did your grandfather teach your father about life?

What did your grandfather teach your father about life?

For all you who are fathers, Happy Father’s Day! What were the most important leadership lessons your father learned from your grandfather?  What life lessons did your father pass on to you? I’m often surprised that when we’re growing up the ideas we learn from our fathers often seem limited and restricted.  As we grow older, we better understand what they were trying to share with us and why. My father was smarter when I was thirty than he was when I was sixteen!

But where do fathers get their wisdom, does it come from a book or their lives?  What I find is that many of their best ideas were passed on from their fathers, our grandfathers. In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I share three things my grandfather taught my Dad.

The first lesson my grandfather taught to my father was to live life with passion. My grandfather was one of the most passionate men I’ve ever known. He did everything with passion. He traveled, he drank, he loved and he sold with passion. He built his construction business with his passion. He was an overwhelming force of nature.

The second lesson my grandfather taught to my father was how to influence others. He could really sell his ideas. He could get people to do almost anything. He had a charming personality and was an impeccable dresser. When you talked to my grandfather, nothing else in the world mattered. He was so attentive to you that you felt that you were the only person in the room with him.  He was comfortable with everyone he met. His secret was he knew how to listen with his ears, but also with his heart.  When we would go places together he became fascinated with everyone in the room. He was a very giving man who hard time telling anyone no.

This led to the third lesson my grandfather taught to my father was to become good at building teams.  My grandfather knew he had a soft heart, some would call easy. He had my grandmother be the disciplinarian in the family. She also was the accountant in the family, a role many women excel at. He always shared with people that without my grandmother he would not have been the financial success he was. Their partnership built a very successful business that would provide for future generations.

Since all of his construction work was project- and cost-based, he had to be a good judge of character. He was very good at bringing people together to get projects done. He was able to attract the right partners and suppliers.  In his head, he kept the names of all the best contractors where he was working, so he could bring in the right people at the right time. Everyone knew my grandfather and he knew everything about his partners and suppliers. This allowed him to win many successful contracts on Cleveland’s Gold Coast.  He taught my father how to be social and still do business.

Finally, my grandfather taught my father the fine art of motivation. As my grandfather described it to me many years later, motivation is knowing when to give a pat on the back and when to give a kick in the pants: in the correct order.  This skill allowed my grandfather to get many things done through others, a skill my father later passed on to me.  As a matter of fact, my father passed on all of these skills to me. So if you didn’t have a perfect upbringing it’s not your father’s fault, but your grandfather’s! (Just kidding.)

Have a great Father’s Day this weekend. Take time to give your Father a hug. See you here next week.

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