Stuff My Dad Said, Part 2

Lessons on Leadership learned from Dad

Father’s Day makes us reminisce about our own fathers. Although my dad passed away a few years ago, I am still surprised when out of the dark corners of my mind, life lessons, deep stuff, and a Dad Joke or two come to mind. At the time he said these things, it probably didn’t seem important to me. But today, I can see certainly see the value. Below is some great Stuff My Dad Said.

Most of us will be in some form of leadership as adults. This is a very tricky position to be in, and failure can come in a thousand different ways. People want leadership so that they can get their own way (never happens). Occasionally they want all the power (self-destructive and self-deception). Now and again they believe they will be highly admired and even liked because of their position of authority. Any of these will get you into trouble if allowed to run their course. Despite the stakes being quite high, most of us are thrown into leadership before we get any instruction on how to do it well. This is a perfect topic to cover with your kids and one that will benefit them far into the future. The world is in desperate need of selfless, personally secure, and others-focused leaders. There will always be a job for those people.

Important talks of this type are rarely successful with teenagers face-to-face. It’s too direct and more than a little intimidating. It is a better and more effective strategy to talk about important things while doing something else. Driving in a car together, staring at a campfire, or working in the yard. Fishing is one preferred way that I recommend highly, as in this scenario below.

“Okay girl, you are turning 15 soon; it’s time to talk about when you get promoted into leadership.”
“Will I make a million bucks then?”
“No. I hope not. I think you lost your bait.”

“I don’t think so. He’s just coming in easy. This is the big one here. He’s mine, Dad.
“Okay. So when you get a job in leadership, everything is different.”
“Why different?”
“Your friends will not see you as promoted. You will need to tell them, show them you have new responsibilities now. You can’t goof off with them at work anymore.”
“Maybe I don’t want to get promoted. Crud. I think I lost my bait.”


Stuff My Dad Said about Leadership

Starting a New Job as a Leader

  1. Go in small, and don’t be a nudge (it’s a good Yiddish word; look it up).
  2. Do not try to overly impress, “crush it,” or take the place by storm. Do not be emotionally demanding or needy. Just learn quietly and gratefully.
  3. Never pretend that you know more than you do or have more experience than you have. If you possess “special stuff” (skills, abilities, or experience) let it out in small quantities and only when it serves the group more than you.
  4. Be quiet in meetings for the first six months. Don’t make big suggestions in meetings thinking you will be a hero with your original idea. Ask those questions from a safe individual later. There are probably many reasons your suggestions cannot work, have already been tried, or should never be attempted here. You just look like a nudge by grandstanding in the meeting.
  5. Don’t change anything for a year unless it’s on fire.
  6. Don’t try to build what you had at your last place. It will probably not work here, and assuming it will is just disrespectful to the new folks. Assume everything at the new place is a good idea until it proves itself a bad one. If it is a bad program, kill it or change it with the input from all stakeholders.
  7. You WILL take friendly fire. Don’t be surprised. If you do the right but hard thing, the folks in group A will appreciate it and everyone in group B will hate you for it. The next time, group B will love you and group A will come with torches and pitchforks. Don’t waste any time or emotional energy being kerfuffled (look this up too; it’s a great word) by it. It’s the price of leadership.
  8. Stop telling us about your last job. Don’t be a nudge. Whatever successes and failures you had back there, they are of almost no interest to the new people.
  9. Do not over promise. Do not overstep.
  10. Build relationships slowly and carefully as they present themselves. Don’t be needy and try too hard to win lifelong friends right away. Be patient.
  11. Beware of those who try to be your best friend too soon. Someone will try to be your immediate bestie for all the wrong reasons. Be cautious.
  12. Have dignity and give dignity. Never kiss up to anyone. Nobody trusts or likes that guy.
  13. Respect your people. They are not tools to use; they are people with dignity. Help them do good work because it helps them. You will benefit as a collateral effect.
  14. Take care of your people and confront when you must. Don’t let stuff slide to be seen as a good guy.
  15. Never demand respect. It never works. They will just disrespect you for whining about not being respected. You earn respect by doing good work and taking care of your people. Good people will respect you as a result. You will need to replace those who refuse to follow your leadership.
  16. If you need to change or start something new, resist the temptation to demonize past leaders or previous policies for not doing what you are about to attempt. It is not necessary, and it is lazy thinking. Be grateful for the opportunity and just go ahead and make the change humbly and for the good of the organization.
  17. Getting promoted means the relationship you have with your peers will change. It’s just the way it works. Some will be jealous or resentful, and they might expect that you will give them a pass on stuff. You cannot do that. Lead them. It’s your new job.
  18. If you are wrong, change your direction. No one thinks a guy who is wrong but refuses to make a correction is smart. It’s just prideful and dumb. If your ship is heading for a coral reef, everyone will be grateful when you swing the wheel wildly to the right (starboard??).
  19. You do not need to know more than everyone on your team or be the strongest, fastest, or wear a cape. Just lead responsibly and for the good of the team.
  20. Try to hire people who are better and smarter than you. It’s better for everyone.
  21. Serve the people you report to with energy and loyalty.

Leadership is not for everyone. It is demanding and occasionally lonely, and you are responsible for all the stuff anyone on your team does wrong. It’s hard and mostly just a grind. But the world needs more leaders who will take care of their team and fight battles on their behalf. Oh, and lead them. It’s risky and unpopular much of the time. Make decisions and get stuff done. Leading is a sacred duty. Teach your kids to treat it as such.

Want to read Stuff My Dad Said, Part 1?

Other life lessons to share with your kids: Three Life Skills Your Teen Needs

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  • Dave Carl is the Family Ministries Pastor at Stonebriar Community Church and is responsible for the ministry focusing on children birth through high school graduation and the parents who love them. With a ministry philosophy based on Luke 10:27, his primary focus is to give parents the skills to raise kids who truly love Jesus and want to serve others. Dave has a passion for ministering to families in crisis in our community. He has spent several years pouring into fathers and husbands and helping them learn that they need community, were designed to guard and protect, and that they really can be the spiritual leaders of their family.

    Dave and his wife of 30 plus years, Cathy, have two adult children and one in college and grandparents to one very loved little boy. They are completely in love with this new member of their family. Dave is an avid woodworker and loves to write. He sees all stories in the form of pictures, and he would love to connect with you!

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Christine Clark is the Ministry Leader for Family Ministries at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a high school sophomore and the wife of her college sweetheart for 25 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.