I’ve admired many things about my dad over the years. His ability to get a splinter out of my finger was in high demand when I was 8 and trying to show the boys up by climbing the highest in the tree. Learning to ride my new purple bike wasn’t easy either, but Dad steadied me, ran alongside, gave me a push, and then let me fly – an approach that became very familiar over the years now that I think about it.
Dad has always been a proud blue-collar worker. I love that about him. He could have climbed a corporate ladder but thrived in the daily grind of tough physical work and long days. In fact, I can hear him say almost daily: “It doesn’t matter WHAT you’re doing. Even if you’re shovelling crap against the wind, you work hard and do your best.” That’s my dad.
Today he works with Syncrude Canada where he competently leads a team of people. While his leadership skills are more recognized these days in his newer capacity, 3 characteristics have always stood out about him, ones that are a mark of every great leader.
- Selfless team player. Mom and Dad live in Fort McMurray. During the horrific wildfire situation that unfolded in May, they were evacuated from their home and their city in a dangerous situation. Roughly 88,000 people were evacuated in fact. Just two, short, whirlwind days after arriving safely in Edmonton, while the city was still on fire and the remainder of its residents were being brought to safety, my dad told me he was going back into the city to report to work (on his days off I might add). Let’s just say I wasn’t happy about that. I was scared. It made no sense to me. I made my case. My dad’s response to me was simple and unwavering. “Kayla. My colleagues are there. They have not been able to leave for days. My family is safe. Now it is my duty to relieve them so they can be with their families too.” There’s no response to that, except “I don’t like this one bit, put Mom on the phone.” I may not have been happy, but I was never more proud.
- Loyal to a fault. I’ve never known anyone more loyal than my father. Yes, to his family and friends, but also to the company he works for. When Dad emphatically and repeatedly says he works for the “greatest company in the world,” we all sort of roll our eyes and smile. We know he believes it, and we almost do too because of that. But then I also recall the positive way he honored a man he worked for years ago. So while I know his views may be, in part, a reflection of his employers and colleagues, I’ve learned that they are really more about my dad’s character. His loyalty is fierce.
- Gets things done. Dad doesn’t talk about doing things. He gets up and moves. He loves hard work and holds himself and those around him to a high standard. He doesn’t expect anything of someone else that he wouldn’t do himself. Dad is able to see the big picture, mobilize others, and dig in to meet outrageous goals because he doesn’t stand in front of his team and tell them to “go do,” but goes shoulder to shoulder and says “let’s do.”
So here’s what I’ve learned about leadership from my Dad. Great leaders always put the needs and values of the team ahead of any personal agenda. They have an ability to discuss things they disagree with in private while maintaining the highest loyalty in public. Great leaders inspire their team to work with them as opposed to dictating how the team should work for them.
Here’s to hoping the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
(Happy birthday Dad!)