Daddy + Me: The Influence of My Father on My Leadership
I was born in the 70s, raised in the 80s, in high school and college in the 90s. I am a product of blue collar, middle class parents who prioritized family dinners, church on Sundays, experiences over possessions and hard work. Summers were spent outside (always, outside) playing with neighbors, swimming in the pool, barbequing with friends and traveling to the beach. School days included early mornings for practice, late nights of studying, 115 activities between myself and my brother, Brian, and not a single uneventful weekend.
My parents didn’t miss one thing. They were at every dance recital, every volleyball game, every yearbook presentation, every honors night, every karate tournament. We ate home-cooked meals together five nights a week around the table. We went to the beach and Disney World every single year. It was idyllic. As a parent, I now cannot fathom what it took for them to provide for and invest in us to the degree they did. Sacrificing sleep and money so we could always have. I can’t imagine a better way to be raised and by more loving people than Neal and Virginia Dixon.
As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I’ve been thinking through the best pieces of my Daddy that I’ve inherited. Ironically, some of the most important leadership lessons I teach to this day, I learned from my own Daddy. Characteristics, mantras and truths that I learned during those years in my childhood home where he was teaching me how to lead without me even realizing. Now, as a wife, mother, mentor and CEO, I understand that those leadership beliefs I have (and share) are deeply rooted and emerge from listening and watching my father model them throughout my life.
Five Leadership Lessons from Daddy:
- Work ethic beats talent every single time. “The one thing you can control,” he used to say, “is the amount of effort you put in. Don’t let others who are more talented make you nervous. If you put in the hard work, you will ultimately have the upper hand.”
- Showing up on time demonstrates respect. “Your time is not more important than anyone else’s. Be prompt and prepared.”
- Correct with love and kindness, not criticism. “Don’t rule by brutal force or by demeaning others. That doesn’t make you stronger or more important. It makes you small.”
- Don’t panic in a crisis; calm outperforms fear. “Are you okay? Then don’t panic. What can you do first? What is the best next step? Lead with calm and others will know you can be trusted.”
- Serving others doesn’t make you less powerful, it makes you more influential. “Show others you care for them by serving them well. That doesn’t mean you are less than them. It doesn’t mean you don’t have any power. What you earn in service is influence.”
What are some of the best leadership lessons you learned from your own father? How are you putting that advice to work in your life?