Beyond the Grave

My dad passed away.

The year was 1992.  The day was Sunday, December 13.  And he was only 59 years old.

Although 28 years have passed, missing him can still feel raw. This past Sunday was December 13, so it was especially sentimental.  As I reminisced about how much he meant to me, my Mom, and my siblings, I also reflected on his influence and impact on so many others outside of our family made evident by the number of people who paid their respects at his funeral.  Many of them hadn’t seen or spoken to my Dad in over 20 years, yet they said they came because he had had such a profound impact on their lives.

The stories they shared were touching.  They were heart-felt.  They were filled with tough love.  They were told with tears of joy and gratitude and appreciation and a feeling of real loss. 

This man, my Dad, showed them kindness, sincerity, honesty, and candor, through humor and humility.  Some of the lessons these people shared are worth repeating – as they show what real, authentic leadership is.  Their memories remind us that servant leadership lasts longer and influences others far beyond the grave.

  1. Be Authentic. If there was one thing my Dad was, it was authentic.  There was never any pretense about how he felt or where he stood, and his actions were fully aligned with his words. 
  2. Be Humble. You really do not know it all.
  3. Smile and Have Fun.  One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Smile. It keeps people guessing [what you’re up to].”
  4. Be Honest. In all of life’s activities, be honest – with yourself first so you can then be honest with others. Otherwise, it gets really hard to keep the lies straight.
  5. Have a Heart. We all have a story and a place from which we’ve come.  Be kind.  Be compassionate.  Give the benefit of the doubt. 
  6. Be Intentional. Not only with your words, but especially with your actions.  Regardless of your station in life – parent, sibling, leader, individual contributor – you are being watched.  You are on stage – at all times. 
  7. Be Curious. Try new things.  Don’t say “no” just because.  Take risks and lean into the lessons.  Celebrate often.
  8. Be Consistent. You’ll earn respect by consistent actions more than anything else. We’re all human and everyone deserves being treated with that respect. 
  9. Be Firm and Fair. Set and communicate your expectations.  Hold people accountable to the agreed upon expectations.
  10. Support We’re on our own journey. Support people where they are and help them get to where they want to go.

There’s a story about my dad to go with each of those attributes, but perhaps the most enduring is this: 

As a 19-year-old, I went to pay for and pick up a used 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo SS from a local dealer.  Dad came along for multiple reasons, but mainly for my protection and security.  When we paid for the car, the dealer didn’t realize he was short $1,000… I knew it right away and tugged at my Dad’s arm to go before the dealer figured it out. 

If the dealer didn’t see it, why did we need to bring it to his attention?  Now I realize that’s wrong. And, seriously, I was brought up better than that.  But $1,000 to that 19-year-old was a lot of money! 

Dad looked at me and then at the dealer and asked him to recount… three times!!  And the dealer still hadn’t caught his mistake.

Dad finally looked at him and said, “I believe you’re short $1,000”.  The dealer stared at Dad, then looked at me, and back to my Dad, and recounted the money.  He had, in fact, counted wrong.

Dad handed him the additional $1,000 to close the deal. I left with my “new” car and some very valuable lessons.

  • Trust. Others may not trust you. You need to have trust in yourself to do the right thing, at the right time, and for the right reasons. Don’t let yourself down.
  • Respect. Respect yourself (reference Lesson 1). Respect others by helping them see their errors – in a kind and compassionate way. 
  • Honesty. Be truthful in all your dealings. Naivete is not a substitute for deceit.

What stories come to mind for you?  Share them with me (reply to this email) as well as the lessons you learned.  I’d love to share your stories early next year!


P.S.  Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link here and let’s book a time together so you can get started today!