The year, 1957 was a pretty basic year. I searched through This Day In History and discovered this was the year Wham-O shipped the first Frisbees, John Lennon met Paul McCartney, Elvis was drafted, Althea Gibson became the first African-American to win Wimbledon, Sputnik 1 was launched and the first underground nuclear explosion took place in Nevada.
April 6 of that year, 58 years ago today, my dad and mom got married. Choices they made illustrate 3 valuable leadership lessons.
Face your challenges
My father had been his own man. He was 26 and my mom had just turned 23 when they discovered they were pregnant with me. They weren’t married yet, but my father made a very important decision that shapes leadership for me. He chose to get married and settle down. When painted into a corner, he always made the best choices, even if they were also the hardest. He had been in the military and he enjoyed his freedom, but he now was responsible for another life. So, even when it was socially taboo, my dad and mom got married.
He was working full time and going to college at night to get his degree, but he ended up taking 2 other jobs to help make ends meet. And for 4 years he worked 3 different jobs and went to school when he could to complete his bachelors degree. He knew an education would be important for making sure he could improve his life and support his family. We heard some stories about his studies, but it took him 7 years to get his degree. He persisted through to completion.
My maternal grandmother wasn’t happy about the marriage. She had been very judgmental of my mom and dad and it caused a serious rift in their family. Months later, after I was born, dad drove us over to visit with my grandmother and another tense and angry exchange ensued. As my mom and her sisters were storming out, dad refused to participate in the struggle. He went back into the room where my grandmother was and handed me to my grandmother. She was quietly being given a choice. She could be a part of her daughter’s family or she could not. It was up to her. He wanted her to stay a part of the family, but it was her choice.
People and relationships matter. My dad chose the most important relationships. He didn’t play favorites and he didn’t compromise with people who thought they knew best for him. He didn’t choose the easy path. He taught me the power of doing what you think is right. Courageous leadership happens when you know your choice is the best choice for the most people, Courageous leadership always inspires. It always creates legacy.
Note: My father passed away on April 5, 2015 from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. He’s survived by his wife, 3 sons and daughters-in-law, 5 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Part of his legacy is the idea that each person makes a difference. What are you doing to make the world a better place? Is it enough?