Leadership Lessons from Dad

My Dad, William O’Rourke, didn’t run a big corporation. He didn’t hold an elected office. He didn’t even graduate from high school. But he was the greatest example of leadership for my siblings and me.

What made him a great father is, I suspect, also why he enjoyed success in his long career in policing with the Ontario Provincial Police force.

On this Fathers’ Day, I’m missing him but mostly feeling grateful for the lessons we learned from him.

Integrity. Dad believed in fulfilling commitments. My brother learned this at a young age when he told my Dad he was not going to deliver newspapers one rainy morning on his regular route. Dad sat him down and firmly explained that once you made a commitment you stuck to it. Forty-some years later my brother told us that he never forgot that conversation.

Gift of the Gab. Dad’s Irish heritage was evident in his easy manner and great conversation skills. Yes, he could tell stories with the best of them, and loved to make people laugh, but his interest in others was why people loved talking to him. Everywhere he went, whether on vacation, at the bank or walking down the street, Dad would end up in long chat with someone (often a stranger). He found everyone fascinating and every story worth hearing. He was one of those people who made everyone feel special.

Owning Mistakes. I was with my Dad once picking up a dehumidifier from a repair shop when a small disagreement ensued with the shop owner. Dad believed the shop had lost the drip pan and had some choice (and not fit for print) words for the owner on the way out the door. When we got home and found the missing part, he immediately called the shop and apologized to the owner. I recall being quite amazed and thinking that it would have been much easier to forget about it and just never go back to the store. Nope, not my Dad.

Positivity. When he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in his 50’s, he did not once complain. He just went about the business of his new reality – strict diet, regular exercise and daily regime of testing and insulin injections. When people would express sympathy for him, his reaction was to say “well, it could be worse…it’s not cancer”.

Love what you do. I once asked my Dad, if he could go back and choose another career what would it be? His answer? “I wouldn’t do anything differently”. He truly loved his job and felt no regrets. Which is pretty much how he lived his life.

Thanks Dad for teaching us these valuable lessons.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads….and in the words of the great poets Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, remember to “teach your children well”.

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