Leadership Lessons From My Father

Today is Father’s Day in the United States.   I have wanted to write a post about the leadership lessons I learned from my father and well, today is the perfect day.  As background my father is now retired from the San Francisco Police Department.  He had a great career and his stories are endless.

Yet, leadership lessons from my father?  He retired as a patrolman.  He had opportunity for promotions and decided to pass.   Yet, from my experience he was one of the finest leaders in the department serving from the street.  How can that be?

To start, my father has that age-old leadership trait called charisma.   Charm, confidence and grace.  That is charisma.  It is interesting, even to this day, to watch my father work a room.  We go to a restaurant – he scans the room to find someone he knows and 9 of 10 times, he knows someone.  It is the same at the grocery store or the mall.  People are glad to see him and both are better for the time together.

Charisma is an interesting topic for leadership development.  While it may not come naturally to all, charisma is available for us all; our own unique charm, confidence and grace.   Being a police officer is tough business especially in a diverse and even odd-ball city like San Francisco.   A smile.  A joke.  A pat on the back.  My father had a certain charm that served him well on the job.

Beyond charisma, here are some other leadership lessons from my father that have influenced my leadership journey:

  • Can not replace hard work – My father was and remains a hard worker.   Over the years I joined work parties he ran for various projects and he was always the hardest worker.  My father led the way to get others involved and carry out the goal.   This blue-collar approach serves as a lesson for me in my white-collar world.  The leader needs to set the example as a hard, yet smart, worker.
  • Storytelling – My father recognizes the power of story.  He has experienced much and knows how to weave those tales into a conversation to help make a point.   From his Irish heritage he indeed has the gift of the gab and that is a good thing.   I have talked before on the power of story for a leader.  It is such a powerful communication tool.  I was lucky to learn this early on from my father.
  • Community and Connection – Police officers are a close community.  My father included me in so many events with his fellow officers.  I worked at an athletic club my father created for police officers and I saw first hand the power of building a strong community.   They treat each other as brothers and sisters and truly have each other’s back.   For the rest of us working in Corporate America, so often we fall short of this strong sense of community and that is a shame.  My father taught me the power of a strong community.
  • Influence without title – I started this post with my father’s ability to influence without an established leadership role.  My father was one of the officers brought back each year to the police academy to speak to the new recruits.  He did not speak of tactics or protocol.  He spoke of life as a police officer.  I never saw one of these talks, but if I did … I would most likely call it a leadership presentation.   My father taught me that all of us can influence those around us.  We can all be leaders.

My father is a man of influence and has made a difference in many lives.  Simple, he is one of my best examples of a leader.   I have learned so much from him and will continue to learn from him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers who taught us well. 

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