By Cindy Davidson

When I was growing up my dad was an arc welder, constructing large commercial boilers.  His job was physically demanding and dirty. He usually came home covered from head to toe in black ash. He slowly rose in leadership. First, he was a foreman, and then one day he started to wear white shirts and a tie.  He spoke of Dale Carnegie and headed a Junior Achievement  Group.

Leadership Father's DayWhen I think back on these and other lessons he taught me, I am interested in how they relate to the best practices of DiSC as defined in the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders and my own DiSC profile. I could tell he was not entirely comfortable with his new leadership position as he would never want to elevate himself above others, and I suspect he viewed management that way. He mentioned many times his approach was to “work beside his men” and not above them.  And he would never ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.  He told me many times he treated each of his employees as if they might be his boss the next day.

My natural tendency is to “push forward,”  get something done,  pursue the vision!  And then dad’s words echo back:  “Beware of the consequences of your words and actions” and, this might sound a bit old fashioned, “You will have to lie in the bed you make.” In DiSC terms, it couldn’t be more clear, “Explore implications!”

My father was a very different leader than I am. Yet, I have incorporated many of his lessons into my management practices. First, coming from the working ranks, dad had a strong belief that the people doing the job knew how to do it best.  So being receptive to ideas of those he supervised was a natural tendency. I know from listening in on some “after work” discussion held in our rec room, that this created some misalignment with other managers in the organization who felt he was too sympathetic to his workers’ ideas and concerns. The lesson sticks with me today, as my natural tendency is to challenge others’ ideas and opinions.  Because of my dad, I focus on getting buy-in from the people who are closest to the work.

I am naturally expressive and have been told to “never play poker” for a living. This can be a strength when it comes to showing enthusiasm for work projects.  My enthusiasm is contagious and thus inspires others to get on board with my organization’s vision.  However, dad taught me very early on to control my emotions and check to make sure my expressions will result in a positive exchange. This one is easier said than done, but vital when it comes to negative feelings that may be expressed as criticism.  I find that replacing negative words with others is easy,  but changing body language and facial expression are a bit trickier and take ongoing practice on my part.

Dad was big on speaking out.  He had a sincere belief that it was important for people to stand up for what they believed in.  He saw it as being genuine, sincere and having integrity. But again, there was a balance to his message.  He made sure to relay to us that there is a time and a place for speaking out and a way to do it – and not everything we have to say related to our own values is important all the time.  Sudden outbursts or aggressive arguments, regardless of the feelings of passion were not appreciated. Being a high D, this lesson has helped me remain reserved during stressful situations.

And finally, my father didn’t hold grudges. I’ll never forget watching  him pull a man’s car out of a ditch – in spite of the fact that the car belonged to  a not so nice neighbor. I wasn’t the only one surprised by his compassion.  “Kill ‘em with kindness,” he’d say.

So what did your father teach you that helps you lead others at home or at work? I encourage you to spend some time thinking about it.  Perhaps this reflection will prompt a most sincere and long overdue “Thank you” this Father’s Day.