9 Leadership Lessons from Dad

This post is in honor of Father’s Day. Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 19th.

Wisdom from Dad

How old I was, I don’t know. Probably around four or five years old, give or take, though my father will likely correct the number with his own memory of the same event. It was a typical hot summer day, and my family was enjoying a day at the beach. We were in Ocean City, New Jersey, to be specific. At that time, the beach seemed to stretch on forever, which I now realize was a function of my age more than the actual distance of the sand. We brought food to the beach, which was typical because there was no way my father would pay Boardwalk prices for anything.

As usual, I was in the water. Somehow I lost track of my brother, Jack, who was with me. When I pulled myself out, exhausted, I scanned the crowd, looking for someone I recognized. I started walking, dodging people, umbrellas, walking around towels, sunbathers, and family tents. After what seemed like a few hours, which likely meant twenty minutes, I realized I was completely, utterly lost.

No matter where I looked, I didn’t see a single person I recognized. I was just short of panic. It’s a feeling I can recall to this day. I had never been lost before, uncertain about what to do or where to go.

Then, I spotted my dad. Where I was stressed, he was as calm as could be. My heart rate may have been spiking, but not his. He was scanning the area, his eyes making a mechanical sweep of everything. As soon as I saw him, I felt a flood of relief as if one of the waves washed all of the worry away in an instant.

This is one of the first memories I have of my father, and one that’s fitting to remember on Father’s Day. A few years ago, I wrote about 9 Leadership Lessons from Mom. It was so popular that I was interviewed numerous times about my childhood. Today I want to turn that spotlight onto my dad and share some of that fatherly wisdom. Because that day on the beach, I had a realization: when I was lost, I wasn’t really on my own. Dad was looking for me. And he wouldn’t give up until he found me. Still to this day, when I hear a sermon about God leaving the flock of sheep to look for a single lost lamb (Matthew 18:12), I think of my own dad doing that very thing.

 

1. Leaders never stop learning.

My dad loves to learn. His degrees range from electrical engineering to operations research (and many others). He went to seminary and then got an MBA. Even now, he is finishing a doctorate in business. My siblings know that our family was able to “Google” something long before the search engine was even formed. We simply found Dad, inputted the question, and out would come the answer. When the internet first started, I would often find he was faster. And, when we took a family trip, we would have to stop and read every plaque and see more historical sites than anyone else I knew.

Leaders have an insatiable curiosity. The more you learn to ask questions, the more you will learn information that may change the future.

 

“Leaders have insatiable curiosity.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Leaders serve others first.

When my wife and I were first married, we moved quite a bit. Guess who helped us move? Painted? Took down or put up wallpaper? How about fixing the leaky sinks? Inspecting the house? You’d think he was a contractor until I add that he did our taxes, analyzed the best mortgages, and told us about the history of the area.

Leaders serve others first. Leaders give freely of their time and talents.

 

“Leaders give freely of their time and talents.” -Skip Prichard

 

3. Leaders are thrifty.

That’s another way of saying my dad is uh…cheap. And you’d have to be with only a government salary to raise six kids and numerous others we would take into the family home. The lesson, though, is to look for the value in everything. Don’t overpay. Realize that we need to be good stewards of what we have. Don’t waste anything.

Leaders don’t wish for the impossible; they create results with what they have.

 

“Leaders create results with what they have, not what they wish they had.” -Skip Prichard

 

4. Leaders are not defined by a position.

Yes, he had an important job. He dutifully gave his time and talent to his employer. However, my father didn’t lead at work and then fail at home. He spent time with us. He was loyal to his family, and in particular, to my mom. None of us ever questioned his devotion. And that taught me a powerful lesson about leadership: it isn’t defined by a job.

Leadership is defined by character, not position.

Mom and Dad

“Leadership is defined by character, not position.” -Skip Prichard

 

5. Leaders appreciate the uniqueness of each individual.

My childhood home was a bit unusual. Somehow people found their way to our home when they were in trouble. If you were abused, our home was a place of refuge. We had our share of rather strange people stopping over. I never recall my father judging any of them. They were in need, and so they were welcome. And that was it.

Leaders don’t judge. Leaders appreciate each individual for who they are.

 

“Leaders appreciate each individual for who they are.” -Skip Prichard

 

6. Leaders continually raise the bar.

If I came home with a 93% on a paper, I don’t recall a celebration. Instead, I was asked what I got wrong, why, and did I understand what I did wrong. The focus wasn’t on the criticism, but on learning and on striving to be better. My parents required each of us to learn a musical instrument, too, simply because of the benefits we would accrue by doing that.

Leaders raise the bar. Leaders push those around them to reach for more.

 

“Leaders push those around them to reach for more.” -Skip Prichard

 

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7. Leaders don’t give up.

10 Laws of Trust: Build the Bonds That Make A Business Great

Building the Bonds that Make a Business Great

Trust is vitally important to creating sustainable results.

If you’re a leader, you know how important it is to create and maintain a culture of trust. But knowing it and doing it are different. How do leaders at all levels of an organization make this a reality?

 

“Trust is the operating system for a life well-lived.” –Joel Peterson

 

JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson’s career has provided him a window into the importance of trust. In addition to his role at JetBlue, Joel is a consulting professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and chairman of an investment firm. His new book,The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds that Make a Business Great, is an exceptionally great read.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Joel about all things “trust.”

 

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” –George MacDonald

 

Increase Your Trust

What’s the Joel Peterson definition of trust?

Empowering and turning over control to another person. It takes the same leap of faith as when we trust a pilot to fly a plane or a surgeon to operate on us. We give trust in increments, measure results, assess risks and grant more trust until we find we’ve extended our reach, expanded our horizons and found greater joy in our interactions with others.

 

“Accountability is the requisite companion to empowerment.” –Joel Peterson

 

You’ve seen the inside of many organizations and leadership teams from your vantage point as Chairman, as professor, as an investor, as a CFO, etc. When you first walk into an organization, what signs do you see that would lead you to say, “This is an organization with a high degree of trust?”

Surprisingly, high trust organizations are ones with conflict – with respectful disagreements that are ventilated, addressed and put to bed so they don’t fester underground. The best ideas win, not the most powerful or senior people. And they’re typically places where there’s humor, self-deprecation, stories, traditions and people who genuinely like each other.

 

“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be a man nobody trusts.” –Harold Macmillan

 

Cultivate a Culture of Trust

What’s a leader’s role in cultivating a culture of trust? How have you seen this go wrong?

The leader’s role is vital. An EVP at Cisco once told me that she found she couldn’t be happier than her unhappiest child. In like manner, an organization’s boundary of trust is set by its leader. It’ll never expand beyond the leader’s trustworthiness. If he or she has a big “say-do gap,” the contagion will spread. If leaders compartmentalize their lives and file violations of trust under the “private label,” they’ll be mistrusted. People are smart. They’ll figure it out, and it’s not long before their wariness infects everyone and everything. As fear takes over, people become less likely to innovate, to take risks, to trust. This can either explode in trust-destroying outcomes such as the recent VW scandal or end up in bureaucratic inaction, caution and failure to perform such as at the Veterans’ Administration.

 

“In difficult times, trust is a leader’s most potent currency.” –Joel Peterson

 

How is respect linked to trust? How do you show respect?      

Respect is the medium of exchange between parties that are building trust. A failure to show respect is a trust show-stopper – even if you’re not the person who is being treated disrespectfully. This extends from teammates to suppliers to lenders to shareholders to customer. Nothing shows greater respect for another than listening to them. It’s at the heart of customer service and team-building. I think of it as listening without agenda, listening to understand, not to respond, to agree or disagree, not until there’s a break so I can respond.

 

“In a trust-driven culture, respect is prized at every level.” –Joel Peterson

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” Yet, many times when a mistake is made, people try to pretend that it did not happen. They attempt to justify the wrong position or try to cover it up, which leads to additional mistakes. This situation reminds me of another quote — “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

 

“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” -Confucius

 

Quite often, more damage is done to credibility, relationships, trust and integrity by the actions taken after the original mistake. This is true in personal relationships and especially true when a leader makes a mistake. How many times have we seen high-profile people get prosecuted, not for the original crime, but for the attempt to cover it up by lying?

Of course there is another choice when a mistake is made—admit it, learn from it, correct it and apologize to those that were adversely affected. There is power in properly admitting a mistake.

 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

Why Admit a Mistake?

Rather than try to ignore or cover up a mistake, there can be many personal and organizational advantages to properly admitting a mistake.

 

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”


Personal Advantages:

  • Averts the need to continue to defend a difficult or incorrect position.
  • Increases leadership credibility.
  • Avoids additional mistakes trying to cover up or “adjust” for the original mistake.
  • Reduces personal stress and tension.
  • Provides a “reset” from others in both personal and professional relationships.
  • If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.

 

“Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Organizational Advantages:

  • Provides a learning situation for you and others.
  • Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful.
  • Allows quick correction, which saves time and resources.
  • Gives others a chance to express views and provide new information.
  • Shows others that they are valued and that their input counts, which builds collaboration.
  • Increases the organization’s ability to try new things then quickly stop those that do not work, which helps establish an innovative culture.
  • Sets the tone for risk-taking, open communication and makes you more approachable.
  • Provides concrete examples to reinforce critical aspects of culture: decisiveness, truthfulness, openness, integrity and quick correction.
  • Removes the “elephant-in-the-room” situation where everyone knows about the mistake, but no one talks about it.
  • Helps offset the bad feelings for those that may have wasted their time.
  • Decreases “pocket-vetoes” when others see the mistake, do not confront it, but simply do not implement.

 

“As a leader it is a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time.” – Bruce Rhoades

 

When Admitting Mistakes Does Not Have Power

How to Actualize Your Leadership Potential with a Life Coach

This is a guest post by Tom Casano, founder of Life Coach Spotter, who helps people to find their purpose in life. He believes that life coaching can truly help you to radically transform your life.

Is A Leadership Coach What You Need?

Finding the leader in a crowd is not difficult, but sometimes being one is. Leadership is not a skill you are born with; it is one that you acquire. And not everyone is a leader today, but that is not because we aren’t born with the ability to lead, but rather because we need to learn how to use our personality, communication skills, and core strengths to empower and inspire others. To lead in the workplace, you must be confident, know where you are going, and support your team to be at their best.

 

“A good mentor knows how to share the truth with love.” -Andy Andrews

 

But even if you don’t feel like a leader today, you still are one. Everyone has the potential to create a vision and help others get there. You just need to unlock your leadership skills, and a coach can help you become a great leader. A leadership or life coach is a person who can teach you the artistry of leadership and give you the skills to enable those around you to get to the top.

Whether you are someone who is trying to take your organization to the next level, or secure a managerial or corporate position within a company, a life coach can show you how to achieve your goals and become a great leader. The confidence that you display in your communication is what makes people want to follow you. Great communication is one of the keys to being a great leader. If you can’t clearly express yourself to those around you, being a leader is nearly impossible. A life coach can help you become a better leader by helping you to improve your self-confidence, your personal and professional relationships, and communicate your ideas to your team better.

 

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” -John Wooden

 

The key to sales is having a product you believe in and are excited about. And leadership is the ultimate sale. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to? A life coach helps you to believe in yourself and to sell yourself as a person who has the knowledge, proficiency and integrity to lead everyone to be successful.

Leadership is not something that you just wake up with one morning. You have to develop your skill set, set realistic goals, and learn to read people in order to be a better leader. A life coach can be the catalyst for change that you need to unleash your inner-leader, whether it’s for your professional or personal life. Making you your own salesperson, they can help you to define a goal, break down a plan to get there, and most importantly, communicate those set of steps and goals with enthusiasm to those around you. The truth is that we all have leadership qualities inside; we just need to learn how to channel them from the inside out. An effective life coach can take those things that make you unique and turn them into making you a spectacular leader to those in any business environment.

Does Life Coaching Really Work?