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5 Things Leaders Can Learn From Fathers

June 14, 2013 by Jeff James, Vice President & General Manager, Disney Institute


As we head into Father’s Day Weekend, it’s hard to forget the things dad does to make that relationship so special. Growing up, it seemed like my father had an answer for every problem, he was a fixer — he taught me the right way to do things.

So it probably comes as no surprise that the best leaders have a few things in common with dad. Here are five of those instances:

1. Leading by example: It’s every child’s go-to retort, “But why don’t YOU have to drink milk with dinner?” Leadership choices may not always regard a dinnertime beverage choice, but leaders who enact a “Do as I say, not as I do” policy are inviting distrust and uncertainty into their circles. Remember, your behaviors tell a story about what you value as a leader.

2. Recognition: I always knew when I had messed up because I was told I had done so. But I also remember the exhilarating feeling I had when my father told me, as he put it, “You done good, partner.” It’s all too easy to point out missteps — the best leaders take the time to recognize employees for a job well done.

3. Seeing the Bigger Picture: I remember trying my hand at assembling a piece of furniture for our family room television to sit atop. I had completed about 2/3 of the assembly when I realized that I had installed an integral panel backwards, requiring me to disassemble the entire piece and leaving a host of unnecessary screw holes. Frustrated and in a huff, I announced that I had ruined the furniture and was ending my “career” as an installer as quickly as it had begun. But there was my father to show me that the disassembly might not take as long as I had anticipated and that the screw holes would not be visible at distance that guests would view the television from.

In times of turbulence, leaders resist the temptation for short-term expediency. Their ability to “see the forest from the trees” refocuses a situation that could otherwise detract from the overall goals and values of the collective group.

4. Making 1-on-1 Time a Priority: I remember when my father would take me out to eat after a ball game, or how he invited me to run errands with him so we could chat and catch up during the car ride. What made those moments special was that he had dedicated time just for me. Leaders who set aside regular time for their employees show their commitment to that employee’s well-being and personal development — don’t think that time is unappreciated, employees know all too well how busy their leaders truly can be.

5. The Ability to Inspire: We all have our moments of doubt, the ones where our goals and ambitions begin to feel out of reach. Like dad, leaders remind you of the work you have accomplished to get to where you are, they point out the unique qualities that set you apart from the crowd, and ultimately, they inspire you to get back on your feet and tackle each new day as an individual challenge just waiting for you to conquer it.

I’ll leave you with one final thought as we head into the weekend regarding a leaders legacy: the best legacy is not one that is only fondly remembered, but one that is actively emulated.

What leadership characteristics did you learn from your father? Share your favorite lessons in the comments below.



Posted in Leadership Excellence | Tagged Leadership Training & Development, Leadership Skills, Leadership Styles, Leadership Models, Employee Engagement Ideas, Employee Retention, Jeff James | 1 Comments


1 Responses to 5 Things Leaders Can Learn From Fathers

  • jeff says:

    on June 14, 2013

    Fantastic post Jeff. Love your writing style. Great seeing you at Boardwalk today.


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