Leadership Lessons—Until Death Do Us Part

My wife, Mary Kay, answered the phone last Sunday and learned that one of her employees had died in an accident late Saturday night. As I write this she is in Wisconsin at the funeral.

One of her favorite memories of last night’s wake was the eulogy given by his 11-year-old son. Apparently many of those there said the deceased was one of their closest friends. The son said that his dad really was his closest friend. Then the lad told about the time that his dad took him fishing and was having a chat with him as they walked. His dad said something to the effect, “If your mother ever, and I mean ever, asks you to do something you had better do it or I’m going to kick your butt!”

Leadership. The young boy will remember that story forever.

We often think of leadership as being defined what we do at our companies. I get confused with that, too, at times. Leadership needs to start at home, in our non-work world. Especially if you have kids … and I mean kids at any age. Do your kids look as you as a leader? If you don’t have kids do your nephews, nieces, neighbors and friends look at you as a leader?

This is where complete leadership comes into play. I’ve read books about people who were described as tremendous leaders in their profession only to learn that in their personal lives they were anything but a leader.

In the past few weeks either Mary Kay or I have been to at least three wakes or funerals. There was a blur of who these deceased really were. In every one of the situations there was little difference between who they were in the business life as well as their personal life. All were respected.

Compare this with a story my son told me recently. His commission is as a leader of an honor guard and he attends funerals every day presenting the flag to the spouse/parent. He just told me about a father who recently buried his son. In the crowd were less than 10 people. The Dad got up in front of the group, put the urn on the ground and said, “You are getting what you wanted—buried with your mother around the fourth of July.” Dad then threw two pennies on the ground and start pouring whiskey on top of the urn and continued, “Here is two cents—that is all you are worth. Here is your whiskey as you chose to always self-medicate. That is all I’ve got to say.”

Imagine this happening … because I just can’t. It is sad to realize the son didn’t understand anything about leadership when you see that his own family didn’t care about him and it was obvious not many friends were there either.

This week’s message is about taking a good look into our own lives. Are we the leader that we need and want to be? Are we that leader in every phase of our life?

Recently I was doing some research into employee retention. Did you know that 87 percent of all leaders think employees leave them for money? In actuality, it’s only 12 percent. People typically leave because of their boss. Bosses who are poor leaders.

We all know people who are great leaders at work as well as great leaders in their personal lives. Unfortunately, leaders like that seem far and few between. It is simply because of one reason—choices. We all make choices. We choose if we are going to be good leaders in our lives.

When one goes to a eulogy they learn a great deal about the deceased very quickly—just as my son learned a great deal about the soldier at that funeral.

“Until Death Do Us Part” is a phrase that is so common in a wedding ceremony but not common enough when we talk about leadership. Make a choice, today, to be the leader you want to be in every phase of your life. It is up to you.

Leadership Lessons—Who Are Your Five?

“I’m sitting in church last Sunday when the Pastor asked this piercing question, ‘If you had to list the five people you thought are the most successful—who would they be?’”—Mark Liston

So I’ll ask you the same, who are your five?

First, let’s define “success.” Does it mean successful financially? Spiritually? Family-wise? Politically? Here is where you need to better define what success means to you.

For instance, in the U.S. the wealthiest are Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, heirs of the Walmart fortune, and the Koch brothers. Does that define success for you?

In 2008 the U.S. News and World Report cited Lance Armstrong as one of American’s best leaders. How did that work out?

Business Insider listed, in their opinion, the most powerful people in politics. Among them were Bill Clinton, Chris Christie, Warren Buffet, Michelle Obama, Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh. I’m not sure about you but I don’t think I would personally define “success” by some of the people on this list!

In 2013 Forbes proclaimed the most successful actor was Robert Downey Jr. Let’s stop there. I agree he is a fabulous actor. But has dealt with drug issues, he says, since the age of eight. Is that success to you?

Golf success?—Tiger Woods. It has been five years since he won a major. I think many of us remember when some of the problems really started, even though he has faced health issues for some time. Does he define success to you?

Lincoln? My favorite president ever. Maybe because I’m from Illinois—a state called “Land of Lincoln”—even on the license plates. He had an unhappy marriage with a woman who was “certifiable.” He also died thinking his Gettysburg Address was a failure.

Baseball—the best hitter of all time (base hits) is Pete Rose. Best home run hitter of all time is Barry Bonds. Neither are in the Hall of Fame. Does that mean they were not successful?

Are you seeing how difficult this can be? It all comes down to your view of success. Maybe success looks like your parents because of the way they raised you and you love them. I know my dad makes my list even though he never made much money in his life. Yet, I view him as very successful just based on who he was and how he was.

If you have children, how do they see you? If you have employees, what are their thoughts about you not only as a Leader, but also as a successful person?

Success to me comes in all sorts of costumes. My challenge is to simply define what true success means to me and then to try and follow my heart.

Walter Bond at www.walterbond.com says you should surround yourself with successful people because you will rise (or fall) to the level of the five people you hang out with the most.

Think about it the next few days. Who are your five? Better yet, how do you define what those five are all about? This will give you a better indication of what you are all about. You might surprise yourself. You might just change your entire focus of what type of a Leader you really need to be.