Last week my father-in-law, Trevor Frederick Orme, passed away and, at age 83 and having known him for 28 years, I have a lot of memories of him. As my wife pondered what she would say at his eulogy, it got me thinking about what I’d say. As I considered these memories I saw the correlation between being a good husband, father, friend and grandfather and being a good leader in the workplace.
1. Faithful — Trevor and my mother-in-law Josie were married for over 55 years. He was a faithful husband and father. He was faithful to the entity called “the family.” When I think about good leaders they are also faithful men and women. Having affairs can be devastating on a marriage and can significantly impact someone’s effectiveness as a leader, especially if the adultery happened with someone at work. Great leaders are faithful to the entity called “the team” or “the organization” and are faithful in their noble, honorable responsibility to lead it well.
2. No Favorites — Trevor had three children and 12 grandchildren! I never sensed he loved his daughter (my wife) more than his two sons. Even though we like to think our son Henry was his favorite, I never sensed Grandpa loved any of his grandchildren differently. Likewise, I have noticed that great leaders do not have favorites. When a leader exhibits these micro-inequities, people can tell and it starts to cause division within the “family” of the workplace.
3. Fun — Trevor will be remembered as a funny guy. He loved to laugh and he gave others good reason to have fun in his presence. His “Mr. Pastry” dance was a classic enjoyed at many special events. He was approachable and easy to be around. Likewise, great leaders are men and women who are fun to be around. People don’t feel threatened or suffocated in their presence.
4. No grudges — I never recall Trevor holding a grudge against anyone, especially family members. If there’d been some temporal fallout the day before, he was the first to bond people back together the following day. He was very forgiving. Likewise, my observation has been great leaders don’t hold grudges. They are quick to forget and forgive.
5. Straight talkers — One of my funniest memories of Trevor was when he called up a girlfriend of Josie’s who would come by the house once a week and overstay her welcome. This lady would sit at the house of my in-laws for hours and hours and I mean hours every Tuesday. Trevor told her in no uncertain terms she was no longer welcome to come on Tuesdays and stay for so long. Great leaders are straight talkers — they don’t beat about the bush. Great leaders have a duty to tell it like it really is. Even though it may sting for a short while, leaders who talk straight best serve employees.
6. Optimism — One of Trevor’s phrases etched in my memory was: “Don’t worry about it.” He was a tremendously optimistic person and always had a perspective that everything would work out OK. He refused to worry about things. Have you noticed how great leaders are optimistic rather than pessimistic? Have you noticed how effective leaders focus on what can be done rather than what can’t? Great leaders see solutions rather than problems.
7. Work/Life Balance — Trevor had a demanding job prior to retirement but he always made time for vacation and he rested on the evenings and weekends. He worked hard and served his customers well, but when he was home he was home. When he took vacation, he took vacation. I have no memories of Trevor calling colleagues or customers or sending emails when he was at home or on vacation. Likewise, great leaders are very present — they have work/life balance. Conversely, mediocre managers get their identity from their busy-ness and therefore don’t want to be “offline” for fear of being forgotten.
Trevor taught me many things as a husband and as a father and it’s only by putting this article together do I also realize he indirectly taught me much about being a leader. Great leadership is essentially about being a good person and that’s what Trevor was — a “good person.”
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].