Leadership Lessons From An Old Fogey

Computer keyboard keys labeled LEARN and LEAD

A week ago our oldest son tied the knot. As Father Of the Groom–affectionately shortened to FOG–it fell to me to provide some pithy words of wisdom during the rounds of toasts. Like anyone without the foggiest idea what to say, I fired up Google. In less than half a second, I had more than 400 thousand potential ideas…

I decided to write my own toast. Here are some edited excerpts:

  • Growing up in a military family has its perks and its pitfalls. One of the perks is that you grow up with, I think, a bit wider appreciation of the world and everything that’s in it. One of the drawbacks is that you grow up always feeling a bit rootless. So when [my wife] and I decided to move back to Oregon nearly 17 years ago, it was with the conscious intent that our children would have the chance to put down some strong roots.
  • It may sound trite, but looking around the room at all the family and friends present and thinking about the last 17 years or so, I’d have to say it truly took a community to get where we are today. I thank everyone of you for being part of our family and community.
  • Holding [my son] was a bit like holding an electric motor. He was always running. It was my role to learn how to nurture and guide without stifling or muffling that energy.
  • It took an accident and a trip to the emergency room for me to realize just how fragile and precious our children can be.
  • Seeing my son engage other adults in an unexpected context showed me that we had successfully raised an independent, thinking young man who others could respect.
  • Who we are is shaped by the things and people we encounter in life just as surely as rain shapes rock. What we become is shaped by our choices in response to the things and people we encounter in life. If we choose wisely, we become good people.
  • All fathers, including me, can only hope that our sons take from us the best parts of ourselves and accomplish things we could only dream of.

It seems to me that there might be some leadership principles hiding in those comments:

  • Recognize and appreciate the backgrounds of the people you lead. Find some way to connect to them.
  • Every person on your team has the potential to contribute something unique. Figure out what it is and thank them for it.
  • Leaders must nurture and guide without unnecessarily stifling or muffling.
  • People are not machines. They are much more robust and capable than we give them credit for being. But don’t assume.
  • Not everyone chooses wisely; you must.
  • Caring leaders hope to model their best selves. Followers will notice your worst self. Act accordingly.
[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#FFFFFF” end_color=”#FFFFFF” border=”#fb7200″ color=”# fb7200″]The Urban Dictionary defines a FOGey as anyone over 50 years old. Magic: The Gathering depicts FOGeys as dinosaurs with conservative, old ideas and a disdain for new ways of thinking. I’ll embrace the first as a fact I cannot deny. Let me challenge you not to be the second.[/message] [su_spacer]

Oh…and one last bit of fatherly advice that I picked up while sharing a hot tub with a guy who had forgotten how many times he had been divorced: Never whistle a happy tune when you’re packing for an out-of-town trip.

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David McNamee, Ph.D.http://www.foundationsforleaders.com
DAVID McNamee, Ph.D. is Producer and Host of "Leadership Moments" a radio show/podcast and President of Foundations For Leaders, an executive coaching and leadership development practice based in Portland, Oregon. David is an experienced business owner, university administrator, professor, C-Level executive, and U.S. Air Force veteran.
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