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People and Places

Leadership from my Dad

This year, my Dad celebrated his 90th birthday. In December, he and my mother celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. I have a younger brother and sister. We are a very loving family.

Dad went to school to train as an officer in the British Royal Navy. As a young man of 20, he went to serve on ships in the Second World War. Recently, I have been listening to cd's recorded by the Imperial War Museum in London about his times as a naval officer. His stories of the war make me grateful for this age in which I live, even with its challenges.

From my experience working with clients, I have learned that our capacity for relating well with others, or not, stems from our early years growing up. Among other leadership qualities I recognize in my Dad, here are four that I learned from him:


Dad is a very thoughtful and caring person. My Mum was the extrovert, more pushy character of the two of them. He is almost a Buddhist in attitude and outlook, though by religion he follows the Church of England. He has been a keen gardener ever since I can remember. The vegetables and flowers he grows reflects the caring attention he gives to them. So too his family.


I would describe Dad as a "gentleman" - an old-fashioned English expression. He is gently respectful towards people around him. People love him.


Even during the days when I was away at school, he took care to write to me. If something he felt was important to communicate with me, he found a way to put it across. Given my wilful nature, this was not necessarily easy but it did not stop him making the attempt. Whether or not I paid heed to what he said is another matter.


Dad enjoys life and a good party. We have had wonderful celebrations at significant birthdays and anniversaries. He has shown the capacity to embrace the goodness of the moment, and the freedom to move on when necessary. He does not dwell in the past.

Dad was not ambitious in his career. He is very loved by the people who have known him. I could mention other qualities that I have learned from him, but these four are the greatest.

Here are the leadership qualities in President Obama that stand out for me:


Time Management as I understand it has more to do with managing yourself well in the time you have available. Great leaders and sportsmen have time. President Obama is not offering quick solutions for the sake of appearing good.


A trustworthy leader says what they will do - and does what they say. They do not promise what they cannot deliver and do not hold back the truth about a situation, however unpalatable. President Obama does not lead with empty promises, nor does he offer a false sense of security.


President Obama demonstrates integrity and a sense of wholeness; a non-fragmented, transparent person. I have the feeling that what I see is what he is.


The skill of a good manager is to see simplicity in complexity. President Obama has the courage to identify an action that needs to be taken; to pursue it with vigour and fearlessly.

"When the solution is simple, God is answering." --Albert Einstein


President Obama does not take himself too seriously. He has a warm and ready smile.


President Obama presents himself as an "ordinary" person: both approachable and real, engaging with people at all levels.

"To lead the people, walk behind them." --Lao Tzu


On President Obama's foreign trip to Turkey a few weeks ago, he took care to gain knowledge about aspects of life, important to local people: sport, culture and history. He even learned how to pronounce names of key Turkish dignitaries and personalities.


President Obama carries himself with dignity. On Inauguration Day I saw his hand outstretched and noticed the gentle strength in it. He comes across to me as a person who is alert; in touch with himself, and the world around him.


... with grace and fluidity. President Obama appears to accept what is so, to cooperate and to flow with it, being a giver towards what needs to be done.


President Obama demonstrates closeness to his wife and children. Here is a person who feels safe to me.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." --John Quincy Adams

Growing up, President Obama embraced the opportunity that America offered him. He stood forward and acted upon it. The same opportunity did not suddenly dissolve and go away. It is still there for every American today. What a wonderful country! How blessed you are who live there.

My Dad and President Obama - on the face of it, you could not imagine two more different people. But in both of them, I recognize and appreciate the gifts of leadership that they bring. My Dad to our family; President Obama to our world at this time of evolution.

What does leadership mean for you? Who are great leaders you have known? How do you lead your best life?

I welcome your comments and thoughts, either below here or by email:

Sunday, 21 June 2009    Section: People and Places
Article tags: celebration thoughts
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