Leadership Lessons From Dad

September 6, 2016


“He has always provided me a safe plan to land and a hard place from which to launch ”
-Chelsea Clinton
This past weekend being Fathers Day, many of us took a moment to acknowledge our Dads and reflect on their impact in our lives. Absent or present, how they love us, laugh with us, engage with us often influences our views of the world, our relationships and even on what we do in and with our careers.

For me I have been fortunate enough to have a Dad who not only cheered from the sidelines and learnt to master the art of plaits and ponytails, but also so willingly shared his own knowledge of driving business, leading teams and making critical business decisions.

So in the spirit of Fathers Day, below are a few reflections on some of those life, business and career lessons I have been fortunate enough to learn along the way courtesy of ‘good old Dad’:

  • Distance is no barrier: Growing up 12 hours west of Brisbane, distance was always a big part of our lives. Whether it was boarding school, living overseas or interstate, the distance between us as a family never defined the quality or quantity of communication and expressions of love, gratitude and support. It was endless and it was and is there at all times.

As our world becomes more globalised, the challenge for many of us as leaders is to build a connected and engaged team from afar; to break down the silos and build a truly mobile mindset and way of thinking that allows people to confidently and nimbly change directions and move with business needs.

  • Sometimes opportunities come in all shapes and sizes: When I first graduated from university my first posting as a teacher, was to a tiny rural community with fewer than 500 people. Working for the Qld Education Department meant accepting what you were given and as young single teachers that more often than not meant remote locations! Anxious and nervous, I was encouraged to dive in and make the most of it, knowing that one day these experiences would provide a solid grounding for something new.

Waiting for the ‘perfect opportunity’ or for when we are ready, can often see us missing the right building blocks that we need for the future. During those early years in my career, not only was I afforded incredible opportunities to work with much more senior responsibility, more autonomy and creativity, I forged some of the most enduring friendships and networks that are still integral to what I do today.   

  • Life is not an endurance test: When living in London and going through a sponsorship process with my organisation, I received a four year visa which to me was way beyond the commitment I was prepared to give – both to an employer and to the notion of living away for that long. I was thinking more like 12 months. Talking it through with Dad I was encouraged to grab the opportunity with both hands but to remember that life was not designed to be an endurance test and when it became one there would be no winners – both my employer and I would lose out. Ironically I stayed for seven years and not for one moment did it feel like an endurance test!

How many of us have fallen into the trap of ‘enduring’ a role or an organisation simply because we don’t know what to do next or aren’t courageous enough to forge a new path? Ultimately not only is our contribution compromised but so to is our confidence and belief in our potential.

  • Be interested and curious about the world and people around you: To live a truly fulfilling and impactful life we need to be actively participating with those around us. We need to be interested in those closest to us – in our families, our workmates and in our communities – what makes them tick, gets them excited and conversely what frustrates them. Watching my Dad participate in all of the above areas with a generosity of spirit and positive intent to add value has seen him rewarded with loyalty, respect, effort and friendship.

One of the greatest disconnects between organisations and employees today is in not knowing what either parties goals, ambitions and capabilities are. Not only is profitability and individual potential compromised but so to is the opportunity to have real influence and impact.

I am very grateful to be able to say that no matter where I have been in the world, I have always known that  ‘When my father didn’t have my hand…he had my back’. Like all good leaders, that alone has given a quiet confidence to get out there and make things happen…. Thanks Dad!

Margot Andersen

If you would like to discuss ways to build you or your team’s leadership capability, please call Margot on 0400 336 318.