Coach’s Challenge for 6/20/11 “Fathers and Leaders”
Good day, team.
Today is Father’s Day, and although I’m not fond of how we’ve commercialized these “Hallmark holidays,” I do think that honoring our fathers is an important tradition in any culture.
This week, I’ve been thinking about fatherhood and leadership and the similarities between the two. A father is the male head of a family, and a leader is someone who is the oldest or most venerable of a group. Both roles require certain sacrifices that we often don’t acknowledge.
My father played both of these roles. He was head of household, authority figure, teacher and intellectual inspiration, moderator, and corporate executive — all rolled into one. I never understood how lonely he was in many of these roles until he was much older and finally told me. He said he often felt excluded from the rest of the family. He never had a son, and he was surrounded by a succession of wives and daughters, who saw him as essential in his role as provider but deficient in his ability to emotionally relate to us. He was the quintessential “Mad Men” character from the 1950s who followed all the rules that society defined for him. But he cheated where he had to in order to appease an inner life that was angry about his compliance and constant servitude. We, of course, just accepted him by thinking that this was the way dads were and often took him for granted.
As the chief executive in a company, he often experienced loneliness at the top. Final decisions were left to him, and he longed for greater support from others but was not always able to ask for it. I remember him saying once, “When you realize that all 520 employees rely on you everyday to ensure that they take home a paycheck to support their families, it weighs heavily on your conscience when you make a risky business decision. At the end of the day, there’s no one else to blame if it all goes wrong.”
I have a hard time relating to what it might feel like to have been raised to believe that I must provide for others. As a businesswoman, I’m always grateful that I’m not burdened by this notion. I’ve only had to provide for myself and anyone else I chose to support, but it’s never been a mandate. Even today, many men grew up with these patriarchal handcuffs and are severely judged when they don’t meet the standards our society has set up for them.
This week, let your father or a father in your life, know how much you appreciate him. Try pointing out the specific things he does that make a positive difference in your life. Spend some time with him doing what he loves. For example, my Dad was a great lover of jazz music. He had an extraordinary collection of old jazz albums that he would play for me when I visited him. We would sit in his den, listening to old jazz recordings, enduring the pops and cracks caused by the age of the album as it spun on the turntable. My Dad would smile from ear to ear with his eyes shut, just loving the music. I was able to show my appreciation for him by allowing him to share something he loved with me.
How about also showing appreciation for your boss? Whether your boss is a man or a woman, a little appreciation goes a long way for someone who often spends lots of solitary time worrying about your welfare and the success of your team.
William Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” This week, try easing that weary head and heart by showing your love and appreciation.
Have a good week!
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