My father was very wise. When I was young, there was never a time that I did not see him with a book. He read everything he could get his hands on. He had a kind and gentle spirit and could talk to anyone about any subject. He always had a unique way of putting things into perspective. He was befriended and consulted by lawyers, doctors, politicians, and other powerful people despite having only a seventh-grade education.
As far back as I can remember I was told that I could be and do anything in life that I wanted as long as I believed in myself. My parents always told us to be true to who you are, be honest and loyal, because without those traits you are doomed to fail.
That is the essence of leadership – believing in yourself, your team, and maintaining your values. One of my favorite books and one that I turn to quite frequently for inspiration on those bad days that we all have from time-to-time is The Servant, by James C. Hunter. Whenever I read the book and the characteristics of a good leader, I think of my dad. My philosophy of leadership comes from the way he lived his life. He was honest (he told you not what you wanted to hear, but what you needed to hear) and trustworthy, a good role model, caring, committed to whatever he set out to do, and a good listener.
He taught my siblings and me that you don’t agree to something that you know you can’t do. Treat people with respect – you have to give it to get it. Encourage everyone to put forth their best effort and acknowledge it when they do whether the accomplishment is large or small. As he did, I try to have a positive and enthusiastic attitude, even when I don’t truly feel that way. It can make a difference in the way your day goes.
Finally, appreciate people for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Everyone has his or her own style and talents. Acknowledge them and celebrate them. The essence of true leadership is to lead by example. I had an excellent example for the greater part of my life, and I hope that I leave that legacy for my granddaughters. I will end this with a quote that really puts it all into perspective.
“If you want to build a boat, do not drum up people to collect wood or assign them tasks or work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.