Leadership Lessons I Learned at My Father’s Funeral

by Feb 18, 2021Lessons Learned

While it has been two decades since I lost my father, I still think a lot about the lessons he taught me. He was an incredible role model and shaped my views on being a father, husband, leader, businessman, and decent human. Two days of my life are deeply seared into my memory, and I want to share what I learned during those two days.

When I was a teenager, 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. As the oldest son in the family and bearer of his name, I stood there for two days, greeting every person who visited. In retrospect, I was still in my early 20s, and I probably did not grasp the experience’s gravity.

I heard hundreds of stories during those two days. One woman (his former employee) came up to me and told me how he pulled many 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 always had his door open and found time to talk to people about their concerns. Stories went on and on, as did the lessons for the young impressionable mind. Lessons like:

  • 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. Good leaders are close to their people and care about every single one of them. 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. Fear fosters resentment, and love encourages collaboration.
  • Your employees are your tribe. Care you invest in them results in the resilience of your company.
  • 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!

And yes, when you are dead, people no longer owe you, so they come to pay their respect to you because they want to. Life is about leaving a big wake of lives changed for the better.

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

Photo credit: Aivas

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