Leadership Lessons I Learned at My Father’s Funeral

Published on: September 8, 2012

Leadership lessons I learned at my father’s funeralAs I am getting ready for my daughter to be born any day now, I have been thinking a lot about my late father and the impact he had on me. He was an incredible role model and shaped my views on being a father, leader, businessman, and an active community member. As I am preparing for one of the happiest days of my life, I wanted to share a story with you about a very sad, yet inspirational, day in my life.

While I was a wide-eyed teenager, eagerly soaking up my dad’s business advice, my father always used to say that the best indication of how well you have done in your life and people’s lives you have touched is by how many people pay their respects at your funeral. Sadly, several years later his words came to fruition. We tried to keep the news of his death quiet, because that is what he would have wanted, but much to my surprise, the word spread like wildfire.  The next day we had droves of people streaming in to pay their respects at his wake. I was floored. As the oldest son in the family, and bearer of his name, I stood there for two days greeting every person who visited. To a twenty-something fresh out of college punk, this was almost too much to handle.

I heard hundreds of stories during those two days. One woman (his former employee) came up to me and told me how he pulled a lot of favors to get her son in to see one of the top doctors in the country.  Her son was standing next to her. Another man told me how my father hired him when no one else would. This man went onto become a well respected reporter. Many people also mentioned how my father all always had his door open and found time to talk to people about their concerns.

So what are the powerful lessons I learned from all of those stories?

  • A good leader does not sit in an “Ivory Tower” and delegate. “The air is thin up there and brown-nosing is rampant”, my father used to say. A good leader is close to their “troops” and cares about every single one of them (no matter if he/she has 1 or 2000). They lead by example and are the first ones out on the battlefield.
  • People either love or fear their leaders. You have a lot more impact if your employees admire your actions.
  • Caring about your employees at a personal level builds loyalty and dedication, which will help you weather the storms.
  • Being a business leader is not just about profitability, it is also about changing the lives of your employees for the better! Put your people first and the value your shareholders will follow!

P.S. Please check out my other article “12 Rules of Business I Learned From My Father”.


Photo credit: Robin Hamman