Father Knows Best: Leadership Advice from Dads

Ginger Schlanger

15 June 2017

Growing up, my father never hesitated to weigh in on our lives with his opinion, observation or advice. My siblings and I knew it was coming when my dad would start a sentence with, “Far be it from me to tell you what to do…” – and then he would proceed to do just that. Actually, my father rarely told us what to do, but instead, asked us questions or shared stories of his experiences that helped us consider different perspectives in order to make our own best decisions. He didn’t always agree with us, but that was all part of the process. 

As Father’s Day approaches, I thought I’d share leadership lessons from a few fathers on the Leadercast Now platform. 

One of the youngest dads on our platform, Adam Gould is the U.S. executive director and co-founder of eduKenya, a non-profit organization that provides transformational opportunities to children in Nairobi, Kenya, using a self-sustaining educational model. 
Adam shares his thoughts on dealing with difficult situations: The first thing you have to do is lean on people who have more experience. Secondly, you have to clearly understand the situation, the dynamics, and the issues at hand. Then thirdly, you have to reassert leadership for people in the different positions that hold authority. Sometimes when people are being stepped over, you have to make sure that the people who are reporting to them understand who is in charge. 

Collin Sieder , executive communication coach with Speakeasy, has two daughters who are now in the workforce. Pouring into young people is one of the things he loves and does best. 
When young people come into an organization where I'm involved, I may be a little old-fashioned. I think some of the tried-and-true approaches to work are still important. Do they show up on time? Are they dressed in a way that honors the fact that they’re at work versus in the backyard playing ball? Do they approach their work with enthusiasm? Do they seem interested and eager to take on work, rather than grumbling or resisting? 
As for those who lead them, I think you've got to treat them with respect; acknowledge that they're smart because they probably are. While their skills may be rudimentary at this point, they won't be forever. So treat them the way you'd like to be treated, even though you've been doing this for 40 years and they just started yesterday. You have to encourage them — I think that’s liberating for them. And they begin to think, ‘finally, I got some guy that doesn't treat me like I'm an idiot, who thinks that I might be able to come up with an idea and that my work might be pretty good. Oh, it's still rough around the edges because I'm new. But there's a guy who is almost saying that he believes in me.’ They'll follow you forever if you do that. 

Ricardo Gonzalez, founder and CEO of Bilingual America and author of The Six Stages of Cultural Mastery, is the father of two daughters. He explains that when he’s working with people and teaching about cultural mastery, the first and most important lesson is this: 
At some time when the pressure builds, you may lose it. And whatever's inside of you, it's going to come out. As leaders, we have to do the internal work first, and we have to face this honestly. 

Steve Akinboro, global senior operations executive and change agent, has two grown sons. He provides this wisdom about a topic that until recently, was not something leaders typically talked about. 
Having empathy—knowing how others are feeling and why they're feeling that way—is a key leadership quality. As a leader, sometimes you may not even be thinking about it, but when you get to work on Monday, by not saying, ‘Hi, how are you doing today? How was your weekend?’ some folks may read that the wrong way and think, ‘Oh, wow, what I have done now? He didn't say hello. He just walked past.’ And they start to wonder if they’ve done something wrong, when in fact there is nothing there. 
People in your organization are constantly observing your behaviors and your body language. It has a huge impact on stress levels within your organization. And we know when stress levels are high, people clam up, and the level of productivity consequently is low. So being aware of and managing your actions and understanding how they affect others is absolutely important to the productivity and the health of your organization.

What are some of the key insights you’ve learned from your father or the father figures in your life? Honor them by taking a moment to share their wit and wisdom with us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Ginger Schlanger

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