Your Path To Successful Leadership: Learning, Confidence, Commitment.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Because Father’s Day is this coming weekend, I am reposting a series of posts I did a few years ago about some key leadership lessons I learned from my Dad.  These were originally posted in June 2011.

In honor of Father’s Day this month, I decided to write about some of the career and leadership advice I’ve gotten from my Dad throughout my life.  I believe our Dads are such powerful influences on us; whether they are living or not, whether our relationships with them are strong or not, whether we know them well or not, their influence is something most of us carry with us throughout our life.

I am blessed to have a wonderful relationship with my Dad and I know that his beliefs, thoughts and actions have impacted the direction of my life greatly-especially my career and my leadership style.  There were three key things I learned from my Dad about successfully leading my life – both professionally and personally: Continuous Learning, Confidence and Meeting Commitments.

From when I was very young, my Dad stressed the importance of learning and education.  There was never any doubt that I would not only go to college but also continue my education well beyond that into graduate and postgraduate school.  In fact, the older I got, the more the importance shifted from “education” to “learning”.  My Dad lived, and continues to live his life full of diverse interests and is always seeking to learn something new.  Before he retired, he was always learning more and more about the focus of his career:  corporate law and global government relations.  He had an amazingly successful career and, from what I could tell, his constant desire to learn more and better himself was a huge factor in that success.  Now that he is retired, he is learning more and more about his passions.  He is always reading something new about one of his many passions: wine, the opera, international travel, his iPad or new Apple computer and he continues to pass along his passion about learning to his children and grandchildren.

I have grown up with an internal desire to always learn more and I know this comes from my Dad’s strong influence on me.  I am constantly looking to learn new things, seek out advanced education, and even more important that all of that – to learn from others.  I believe my career has been successful because of my desire to continue to learn something new from everyone I meet.  Every person has such a unique perspective and so much to share based on their own life experience that each encounter with a new person, or repeated encounters with those I know well, are opportunities to expand my horizons and continue to learn new things.  Learning from others also adds to what I have to share and pass along to others so it’s like a continuous loop of giving and receiving knowledge.  My learning orientation has been a huge factor in the successes I continue to have in my life, both professionally and personally.  I am eternally grateful to my Dad for instilling that belief within me.

The next key to successful personal and professional leadership my Dad taught me was about confidence.  My Dad was (and is) a very confident man.  He worked many years as a Corporate Executive and exuded a stance of calm confidence.  I always looked up to that and have worked to model that stance throughout my life.

My Dad always said (and modeled) that, as a leader, you must always be calm and confident, especially when making decisions.  If you do not have confidence in your decisions, it is not only difficult to get anyone to support them but is even more difficult to be an inspiring leader.  Who wants to follow a leader who second-guesses their own decisions?  No one.  Being confident in your decisions and having a stature of someone who is self-assured and calm will inspire others to follow you.  And, if your decisions are incorrect (which may happen sometimes), then own up to them.  My Dad taught me that owning up to a mistake and admitting when your decision is wrong is just as important as being a confident decision-maker.  Sharing this with your team, along with the reasons why you made the decision, what was wrong about it, or what could prevent a mistake like that in the future will help others see you as human.  It builds trust and credibility and continues to encourage others to want to follow your lead.

My decision-making confidence has truly been a key factor in my career and leadership success and is something else that was modeled to me by my Dad; another characteristic and belief he instilled in me for which I am eternally grateful.

The last key to successful leadership my Dad taught me are actually a few things which I combined. He taught me to always finish what you start, be true to your word; or, as I like to translate: Meet Your Commitments.

As a child of Anthony Corso, I can honestly say that he never said he’d do something for me or with me that he did not do.  He always did exactly what he said he would and that held true in his professional life as well.  In fact, there were many times when he could not be somewhere with me because he had committed to being in another country for his job; not that the job was more important but, he had made a commitment to be somewhere else and was honoring that commitment.  In the same regard, there were countless times when he would rearrange his travel so he could meet a commitment he had made to me (or my sister).  My Dad was always true to his word and lived up to his commitments and taught me the importance of doing the same.  This is huge for career and leadership success.  You can’t advance your career if you are not meeting your commitments and you cannot be a respected leader if you do not do as you say you will.

In the same regard, my Dad has always been big on not quitting, or finishing what you start.  I remember while growing up I was fickle about trying out new ‘activities’: piano lessons, ballet lessons, ice skating, gymnastics.   Although I only took these lessons for maybe 1, 2 or 3 years at a time, I was not allowed to quit midseason.  It was, again, about keeping commitments.  If I had committed to take piano lessons for six months, I had to stick it out for the six months.  After that, I could either continue or stop but I had to meet the commitment that I had initially agreed upon.  These lessons have stuck with me and supported me in being successful in my career and my ability to lead others.  I know that meeting commitments is where it all starts. Whether that translates to being true to your word or finishing what you started, if you do not do these things, chances are your career won’t advance very far nor will you be a respected and inspiring leader.

Although I wrote about meeting commitments as the final of these three keys to successful leadership, I think it is the most important thing to being a respected leader and also having a successful career.  Meet your commitments – it is the foundation.

Thank you Dad, for these and so many other lessons I have learned from you and for which I am eternally grateful!

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