Leadership Lessons I Learned by Watching my Father

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-7

So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.


Happy Father’s Day!

Country Western singer Rodney Atkins sings, “Watching You.” The song’s refrain goes like this:

“I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you and eat, and grow as tall as you are. We got cowboy boots and camo pants. Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, aint’ we dad? I wanna do everything you do. So I’ve been watching you.”

Dad did not wear cowboy boots or camo pants, but I grew up watching him as a leader in our church, in public education, and in the broader community. Dad is now 83 and very active. He is a veteran who out of high school served four years in the U.S. military with the Air Force. He retired from the field of public education after 52 years of service as a classroom teacher, high school principal, school superintendent, and dean of my hometown community college. He stays engaged with life and people teaching his Sunday School class, something he’s done since the third week after joining First United Methodist Church in Rio Grande City in 1960. He is a member of the Lions Club and visits elementary schools to provide vision testing for children and eyeglasses for those that need them. He serves as an advocate for the South Texas region of the Retired Texas Teachers Association and makes several trips a year to Austin to talk with legislators about issues affecting retired teachers. He walks 4 miles a day, does his own lawn (in 100+ degree weather), and plays golf on the weekends, often scoring better my brother, sons, and me!  I’ve seen him love mom for 58 years, teach us about life, love his grandchildren, help others succeed, and never really ask for anything in return because as he says, “I’m just doing what I am supposed to do.” Yes, I’ve been watching him.

Below are some leadership maxims for the type of leadership I try to practice which I learned from watching my dad.

  1. Stay focused on the mission. That’s your job as a leader. Treat what you do as if it’s the most important job in the world because it makes a difference in people’s lives and in the world and it’s your responsibility for its success. Besides, people are counting you.
  2. Cast a vision that makes people stretch and aspire without exasperating them and give them what they need to succeed. When the vision is accomplished, cast another, and another, and another always stretching people to be a little more and see a little further – “un poquito mas.” At first, some might complain a little but will feel great about themselves and their work when they accomplish it.
  3. Over plan for success and ensure that details are paid attention to – details matter and it’s the small things and little touches that separate good from excellent.
  4. Secure and align material and human resources to accomplish the mission.
  5. Thank the people – always! Especially the invisible ones, the ones that work in the background making things go well – they matter the most. Give away credit to others. Assume responsibility when things do not succeed then work to make them right.
  6. Act confidently to inspire confidence in others, especially in times of uncertainty and chaos. Stay calm. God is with you.
  7. Coach the people to expect more of themselves and to take pride in what they do. People have a depth of talent and gifts. A good leader will identify and call forth the abundant treasury of people’s gifts, talents, and resources.
  8. Delegate authority, responsibility, and accountability to others and specify the expectations and outcomes – they will do better than we imagine.
  9. See the whole of the organization, its interdependencies, its culture, and its direction and lead forward with hope for a brighter future with principle, integrity, firmness, gentleness, and fairness.
  10. If we you forget why you do what you’re doing, take what you do for granted, or lose focus on what you’re doing, go back to # 1.
  11. Above God and your family because they are the ones who care most about you and will be with you when it’s all said and done.

The apostle Paul mentored Timothy, his spiritual son. Timothy was a student of Paul. Timothy watched Paul minister in all sorts of situations with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. Now as Paul is ready to finish his course, he asks Timothy to carry forth the mission. “Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others.”

Perhaps you did not have a biological father to walk alongside you, model, or mentor you in life. But, I’m sure there have been other men in your life you have watched that have inspired you, challenged you, who expected great things from you, and who believed in you. As you have been mentored by a father figure, mentor others and bless their lives with the bounty and richness of your life experience, your faith, your wisdom, and your accompaniment.

Happy Father’s Day! Feliz Dia de Padres.

Seven Fold Blessing Prayer for Father’s

May God be gracious to you. May God bless you. May God make his face shine upon you. May you be strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might. May you be filled with joy. May God give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Drawn from Psalm 67:1, Colossians 1:11, Psalm 20:4)

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