As a leadership coach in corporations, I most often find myself working with male leaders. These are driven men who are hard-wired for success. It is very natural for our conversations to begin with their career history and how they got to where they find themselves today. One of the things I look forward to in every “getting to know you” is when they speak to me about their families. I often hear about a father or father figure who role modeled hard work and determination, and I often hear about what these men are hoping to role model for their children or those they are helping to raise.
There is often confidence in their voices as they speak to the impact of their fathers, grandfathers or uncles. Too often, there is question in their voices as they wonder if they are having the same impact on the children they are helping to raise. I understand the confidence, which is retrospective and easier to see. I also understand the question, because it is harder to view the impact at the moment. The impact is much easier to feel and see as we look in the rearview mirror.
In some ways, that makes the work of fatherhood much like the businesses we run and the organizations that we lead. We work every day to do the right thing and make a profit. The impact of that hard work and the volume of that profit is often not apparent at the moment. It appears at the end of a month or a quarter or a fiscal year or a tenure as an executive. Even though we know we won’t see the impact of our work show up in our bank statement that day, we keep at it. Similarly, while we most likely won’t see the impact of our parenting and mentoring showing up in our children today, we need to keep at it, too.
If I am still able to be doing this work 15 years from now, I will be hearing about the impact you made in the life of your child. I will be hearing about the time you made for them and how you showed up when they needed you the most. I will be hearing about the sacrifices that you made to balance their needs with your career aspirations. I will be hearing about the lessons that you taught them when you didn’t even know they were looking. And they will tell me how they want to be just like the example that you set or they will tell me how they want to lead in a completely different way. That is the thing about impact…it is felt for a lifetime, whether it is positive or negative.
It reminds me of a quote I try to keep in mind and share with others, too. “Your greatest contribution to this world may not be something you do but someone you raise.” I’ve seen great leaders be able to do both.
Happy Fathers Day to all of you who are working every day to contribute to the world through the organizations that you lead and the people who you raise. I am cheering for you, especially my Dad (pictured with his grandchildren) and my partner in parenthood, Chad Helmer.