Leadership Lessons from Dad

What better time to ponder what we learn from dad than Father’s Day? It certainly made me think about what I’ve learned from my father. And, shock of shocks, it’s way more than I’ve always wanted to believe.

My Father
My Dad

Not that I didn’t want to be like him. No, it’s more that I always thought much of who I was was a thoughtful and conscious choice on my part. The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that, nature or nurture, I have too much in common with my dad for it to be coincidental. I am my father’s son, there’s no argument there.

My father worked for decades in the Fortune 500, ending his tenure as a VP of Research and Development. Although I can’t say from direct experience what his management style was at work, I’ve seen many decades of it at home. He is a kind and gentle man who always wants to see the best in people. He is also conflict averse and quick to compromise. And I find my own style reflects all that’s good and not so good in him.

No, I don’t imitate it directly, as I like to believe I see the down sides and try to correct them. But I, too, am always the optimist, forever believing in the core goodness of people, and almost always taking a kinder, gentler approach to issues. I like to be the calm and reasoned voice in amongst the chaos.

But like my father, I am also conflict averse. I have to push myself into good healthy conflicts, even when I know that standing my ground will bring great benefits. I watched as this tendency effected me in a company with a “prove it” culture like Microsoft. I have always wondered why I had this problem, I guess I had to wait until my 50th Father’s Day to realize it.

What better time than Father’s Day for this healthy introspection?

Reflecting on my experience and comparing it with the many leaders I’ve seen over the years, I think I see two basic trends in inheritted leadership traits. Some, like me, get a great deal from their parents, trying to take the best, and resist the worst. Others I’ve seen go exactly the other way, trying to be as different from their parents as they can be.

But in either case, it is fascinating and instructive to see what we’ve learned about our leadership styles from our dads (and moms). What better time than Father’s Day (or Mother’s Day) to do this healthy introspection?