Octo Observations: Leadership Lessons

Living the final chapters of life awakens many of us “old guys” to irrefutable realities. We feel an urgency to share values that have guided us through our long lives. We don’t want these principles of living to vanish with our generation. During nearly three years of writing articles for Woman Around Town, I have pondered such topics as Manners Do Matter, Pampering vs Spoiling, Counting Blessings, Me vs We, Honor Above All Else, Be Kind, and several others in that vein. Today is about Leadership Lessons… particularly those to be digested and practiced.

In the beginning, when a new mother and father gaze lovingly at their newborn, their hearts are overwhelmed with awe. Babies come in all colors, shapes and sizes. They come with their own unique personalities, talents and gifts.  Instinctively, parents want to do all possible to provide security and guidance for that little person.

As a child grows, a mom and dad are the primary teachers. Every word of praise, encouragement or expression of affection is processed and stored in the child’s psyche. For first-time parents, realizing the onus on them can be daunting. Thankfully, most embrace their roles and give unendingly of themselves. Communicating with words, actions and gentle guidance is essential. With time and nurture, a baby becomes secure.

Early on, it is easy to identify which child will be content to let others make decisions, or which child will insist on taking the lead.  How well I remember our own four children, each one different from the other. A fascinating revelation for me as a stay-at-home mom to observe each baby emerge to toddlerhood and childhood. Funny enough, each child showed early signs of the adults they would become. And to this day, each one is an amazing person in different ways. 

How does a child become a leader? For some, it comes naturally. For others, it must be learned by experience. Some children are happier to follow than to lead. Something inside tells them what feels most comfortable. Is that DNA? Or is it simply a natural, individual instinct.

In today’s world, leadership qualities are under intense scrutiny. Especially in an ever-evolving competitive corporate climate or fractious Presidential campaign. My husband spent nearly forty-five years in big business. We watched company loyalty toward employees devolve into bottom line dollar driven decisions.  As competition surged and computer technology emerged, corporate policies shifted and people became more expendable. 

Politics in 2019 are also very different and more “in your face” than they were after WWII. Twenty-four hour news cycles contribute to both positive and negative discussions and dissections of those seeking higher office. TV journalists interject their biased personal opinions. My dad used to say that neither religion nor politics were to be discussed in polite conversation!  I grew up with Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight David Eisenhower as presidents.  My father espoused a sacred belief that to be President of the United States was “the highest honor any man could have.” In school we read extensively about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and others. We revered our Founding Fathers. Now, history classes are fewer, significant events are abbreviated, and many children are no longer taught to realize how blessed they are to live in America, where freedom is NOT free.

So where are we headed? Why do we older folk shudder when we hear terms like “snowflakes,” “helicopter moms,” “college entrance scandals?” Suddenly, we seem to be living in a value-diminished society. What about Honor, Integrity, Respect, Truth and Tradition? What has happened to Leading By Example with good values, solid principles?

If I were a teacher in any secondary school in America, I would insist that each child take a course in Leadership Principles; each child would sign an honor pledge before writing any exam. The lessons and beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would be woven into every subject. I would teach basic human values that never go out of style. Since that opportunity cannot happen, I can stand firm behind these beliefs as a grandmother and endeavor to do all possible to live and breathe them…hopefully with kindness and compassion.

Thus, let’s each promise to keep growing, learning and making our lives the very best they can be. Reach out to all those who are loved and treasured more than breath itself.  Be positive, but honest. And if something is not working in our lives, let’s look to ourselves first for the answers. Perhaps we are doing something that needs to be fixed. 

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said so very many years ago, “Character is higher than intellect.” And in my heart, character is all about proven values. Without deeply felt and practiced values, strong leaders cannot flourish.

Or as Walter Cronkite, a respected journalist of the Fifties and Sixties, wrote: “Success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles.”  

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

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