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  • Both require choice – everyone has the capacity, but not everyone wants to be or should be a parent or leader;
  • Both are entrusted to care for others – children or team;
  • Both include an expectation of responsibility to protect us or pull us into the future… and a willingness to sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours;
  • And, both demand daily attention and consistency to achieve the desired outcome.

And according to Sinek, when it works, it’s magical.

My Dad had some of that magic. Born in 1925, Dad was a member of the “Greatest Generation” and came of age during WWII. Like many of his generation, he inherently understood the importance of honesty, humility and hard work as well as respect and compassion toward others. By most measures, his life was a success – happily married to the same woman for almost 50 years, adored by friends and family and admired by business colleagues across the U.S., loving father of four, and accomplished as a corporate executive and an entrepreneur.

Though he was a good storyteller and had knowledge of, and interest in, a variety of topics, Dad was a quiet, thoughtful man. He spent more time listening than speaking and rarely raised his voice with us – choosing instead to discipline our errant behavior with a serious, soft-spoken admonishment of “I’m very disappointed in you.” As children, we would sometimes compare Dad to E.F. Hutton, the namesake of a brokerage firm best known for its ‘70s and ‘80s ads that included the phrase, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” When Dad spoke, we listened.

Perhaps that’s why I so clearly remember a family dinner conversation one night when I was barely a teenager. We had just learned that Dad had been promoted at the company where he worked, but instead of relishing our praise or celebrating his achievement, he was dismissive of its significance. He good-humoredly said, “You can’t eat fried title.”

And, in just that one statement – and the discussion it prompted, Dad taught me (and presumably my brother and sisters) a multitude of lessons, among them:

  1. One’s title is not a proxy for one’s worth.
  2. People deserve respect for their actions, not their titles.
  3. All titles are hollow without accountability.
  4. For titles to bestow status, they must be accompanied by leadership… and at its heart, leadership implies a commitment to act in others’ best interest.
  5. True leaders are humble, not self-congratulatory.

Sinek underscores these insights:

“The rank of office is not what makes someone a leader. Leadership is the choice to serve others with or without any formal rank. There are people with authority who are not leaders and there are people at the bottom rungs of an organization who most certainly are leaders. … What makes a good leader is that they eschew the spotlight in favor of spending time and energy to do what they need to do to support and protect their people.”

Just like a good parent.

“Everything about being a leader is like being a parent. It is about committing to the well-being of those in our care and having a willingness to make sacrifices to see their interests advanced so that they may carry our banner long after we are gone.”

I have your banner, Dad.

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