I’m sure you’ve also run across articles championing the wisdom that the writers acquired from their fathers, and I’m sure those are great articles. Sure, my father taught me integrity and honesty and all that. I’ll let others talk about those lessons, but I’d like to share some leadership lessons that I learned from dad and explain them with some examples. For example, I learned…
You can solve most any problem if you first size it up, and then attack it. When I was growing up, our primary source of heat for our home was a fireplace and later, a wood-burning heater. My brother and I would accompany our father to cut firewood. As we waited for the tree to be cut so we could split the wood and then load it onto the truck, our father would walk up to a “candidate” and, while standing at the base, look straight up at the top of the tree, sizing it up. He was looking to see which way the tree was leaning and looking to see if there were branches growing more on one side than another. He was determining which way the tree would fall once it was cut – and if it would tend to fall in an undesired direction, he would make the cut so that he could force the tree to fall in another direction. After splitting and loading firewood for a while, my brother and I hated it when my dad would walk up to a tree and size it up. That was a sign to us that we were not going anywhere anytime soon.
My dad is always methodical when he sizes up a problem. By doing so, he determines the best way to address the problem. Leaders don’t just throw things at a problem, hoping something will stick; nor do they over-analyze the problem. They methodically size it up and then attack the problem.
Sometimes you take unconventional paths to success. My dad loves baseball – he loved playing when he was younger and he loved practicing with my brother and me. I remember the day he gave me a broom stick and asked me to follow him around to the side of the shop. I stood about 3 feet from the wall of the shop and took a batter’s stance and dad, standing about fifteen feet away, began to “pitch” soda bottle caps at me. The object was to swing and hit the bottle caps like a baseball. My dad explained that if I could learn to hit the bottle caps with the broom stick, it would help me develop better eye-hand coordination, thus helping me to be a more successful hitter in baseball. And it worked – I was pretty successful at hitting a baseball.
Don’t be afraid to take unconventional paths to success.
With time and patience, you can learn to do most anything. When I was a small child, I was like most every other child in that I thought my dad could make or fix anything. Well, it turns out that he really could! Dad is very logical, methodical and mechanically minded. He was never formally trained as a carpenter, but he is a master carpenter. He constructed the house where he and my mom live, down to making the cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom. He is quite the gardener and farmer – many in the community compare their gardens to his or seek his counsel for solutions to problems they are experiencing. In these areas, and many others where my dad excels, he has learned how to be successful over time and with patience.
In today’s drive-thru, instant-access culture, we are conditioned against taking our time and exercising patience. By doing so, however, we are able to learn more, expand our capabilities and bring more value to our organization.
There are plenty of other lessons of course. My dad is a large part of the reason I am who I am today. Thanks, Dad! I love you, and the next time I’m home, I’ll help you cut and load more firewood.