The First Quintessential Leader in My Life: My Dad

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Quintessential Leader Basics, Quintessential Leadership
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daddy-young-man-1If my dad were still alive, he’d turn 90 next month. That sounds really old to me, but I am reminded that he and my mom came to parenthood later in life, after he’d almost finished his veterinary degree and after several years of heartbreaking miscarriages, the last of which almost killed my mom.

After Dad and Mom realized they wouldn’t be able to have biological children, they still wanted a family, so they decided to adopt children and love them as their own.

Both of my parents had been orphaned as very young children. Both of them were only children. And both my parents had been raised by legally-obligated relatives who, except for a rare exception here and there, did the letter of the law of their duties, but no more. Love was not included in the contractual obligation of raising a dead relative’s child.

But both Dad and Mom were showered with love before their parents died, so they knew what was missing. Dad and Mom both knew how to love because of those formative years and they wanted to share that love with an extended family beyond just the two of them.

And that is how my two sisters and I became their daughters. It was a miracle and a blessing for which I am ever thankful.

My dad was a quintessential leader. He modeled that for me in who he was and what he was. His character was exemplary and there was never any wavering in his commitment to doing what was right, no matter the cost, doing what was fair, no matter what everyone else was doing, and serving everyone as he was able, no matter who it was.

My dad was genuine. There were no double standards with him. He didn’t have different personas depending on where he was or who he was with. He taught me about being consistent, being authentic, being honest, being full of integrity, and showing everyone respect, even if you didn’t necessarily like them and even if you didn’t agree with them.

Daddy showed me what humility looks like in action. My dad was a very intelligent man, a deep thinker, and he held a lot of top-level positions during both of his careers as a physical therapist and a veterinarian. But Daddy never talked about it and we always lived below our means, in normal houses, in normal neighborhoods, going to public schools.

It was the right thing to do because it kept us kids grounded. From the time we were old enough, we were given chores to do. All of us were expected to help with every aspect of planting, harvesting, and preserving the produce from our large summer gardens. When we were old enough, we got summer jobs doing farm work, starting in late April and running sometimes through the end of October. The rest of the year, we were expected to concentrate on our school work, going above and beyond to excel, even though we all played sports from middle school on.

The work ethic that Dad and Mom both gave us was strong and all three of us work hard and have never shied away from labor-intensive effort and long, grueling hours, if that is what is required.

My dad also taught me about consistency and being trustworthy. While it may sound passe, Daddy truly was the rock in our family. I could always count on him. We could always count on him.

I always knew, no matter how bad things were, that Daddy would be calm and wouldn’t fall apart. And no matter what kind of trouble or messes I got into as a kid, I knew I could go to Daddy and talk with him without being afraid of his response. It didn’t mean there were not consequences, but Daddy was, first and foremost, merciful and compassionate.

Two other things, which are interrelated, that my dad taught me were the value of a good name and respect for our family name. He taught me that everything I did or said reflected on our name, and that I should always think first and do or say later to make sure that I didn’t bring dishonor on our name or our family.

What Daddy was really teaching me was self-control by learning to keep close tabs on what was going on inside, to think deeply about it, and discern whether it was right – and then go forward – or whether it was wrong – and then turn around or go in a different direction.

And, frankly, I don’t believe a lot of people have been taught to critically think about everything, analyze everything against a right and good standard, and then endeavor to always try to do the right thing.

It’s a shame that this is missing from many lives because it has guided me – although I’ve got more than my share of mistakes, errors, and failures along the way – in the big picture of my life and it’s saved me from making even more mistakes, making even more errors, and failing even more times than I already have.

But, overarching all of these things, my dad taught me what love looks like in action. It’s not flashy or gushy, but it’s unconditional, never-ending, and always at the heart of who a person is. It’s kind. It’s patient. It’s gentle. It’s forebearing. It’s forgiving. It’s always showing up and being present. It doesn’t fail.

daddy-1993There hasn’t been a Father’s Day in the almost 20 years since my dad died that I haven’t wished I could tell him, “Thank you, Daddy,” one more time. That I could tell him again how much I love him. That I could hug him and just rest my head on his shoulder and know everything is going to be all right.

But with each passing Father’s Day, I also see more and more of the quintessential leadership legacy my dad passed on to me and my responsibility to not only live it, but to pass it on to others as I am able.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you and I miss you. I can’t wait to see you again.


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