If you ask many leaders who the greatest influence on their life has been they will often tell you that it has been John Maxwell, Jack Welch, Tom Peters, Ronald Reagan, Gen. Patton, Atilla the Hun, or some other famous or infamous individual. And those are not bad or wrong answers.
If you ask me, I will tell you that it is my two children.
Fatherhood has been an educational journey that no institution of higher learning could provide. Its principles were not learned in a Harvard MBA program. These leadership lessons were learned at the dinner table every night. My children are both grown. And although they may think that I am offering them words of wisdom, I am in fact still enrolled in a life-long learning program and they are instruments of learning.
To be clear, I do not see myself as the great expert on fatherhood. I have made errors in judgment and I have made some erroneous decisions. But, I don’t think I have made too many selfish decisions. But when I did, I hope I was transparent with them and that I sought their forgiveness. And I hope that I was honest in my self-assessment, especially with the weaknesses and faults that I have.
I am clear about a few more things. For another, I have never seen such sacrificial and unconditional love flow from one human to another as I have seen flow from my wife and into our children. She is the true instrument of God who raised our children well and modelled unconditional love to them on a daily basis. I still see it today.
But I am here today to speak about fatherhood and lessons of leadership. At the end of the day, I have several lessons that I have learned about the great challenge of being a father who went off to work every day and tried to come home at the end of the day with enough left in the tank to actually be a father. Here are a few that I think are worthy of consideration:
- Love their mother. I am not a perfect father. Not even close. And I am not a perfect husband. Again, not even close. But do you know what my children think? Despite my imperfections as a husband, despite my learning the roll of husband in “on-the-job” training, despite being exhausted many nights, they think – No, check that – they KNOW that I love their mother. I am with her until death do us part. My children can bask in the assurance and the confidence that, not only do I love them, I love and adore my wife, their mother.
- Ask for forgiveness. My children have taught me much as I have grown up among them. My natural and sinful tendency is to speak quickly and sarcastically. I know that blew it many times as a father and I hurt their feelings and I wounded their spirit. In fact, both kids have an acute sense of sarcasm thanks to me. But my children have taught me to think before I speak and to be willing to ask for forgiveness when I am wrong. They have indeed taught me well. That made me a better father. It made me a better husband. And it is making me a better “Papa”.
- Laugh and love. We tried to make our home a fun place to be. Both of my children have a well-defined sense of humor. Our children like to joke with one another. They especially enjoy making fun of their parents from time to time. Many of our peers in “parenthood” did not think that some of our joking was appropriate. Many of them thought our children were a little disrespectful. I didn’t care what they thought then and I care even less today because the relationship that I have with my children is one of mutual respect and the mature ability to laugh at each other and ourselves as life occurs day by day.
There are many more lessons that I have learned. And I will try to develop a few more of them as the inspiration occurs.
What are your thoughts on these leadership lessons learned in fatherhood?