I recall a statement made years ago by one of my bosses when I asked him, “What are the qualities of a good leader?” He responded, “I know one when I see one.” That may be true for a mature leader, but what about those who are just embarking on their leadership journey?
I write this article from my experience in observing the manifestation of leadership in my nephew and niece upon the recent death of their father/father-in-law.
These past two months, our lives were shaken by the news that my brother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. This news came as a complete surprise not only to him but to all of us, especially his two sons. For me, as his caretaker, it was a significant temporary pause in life’s daily routine that called forth compassion, resilience, emotional strength, and love.
This convergence of circumstances, created by the death of their father, called forth from his son and daughter-in-law the role of leadership that they may not have otherwise chosen to take. Robert, the youngest of his sons, and his wife Francesca, accepted the responsibility of planning his funeral arrangements and overseeing his finances. I was amazed by their deeper interior awareness of what was being called for in themselves. There was a calm and thoughtful approach in each decision they made: Who needs to know, what do they need to know, and how can they be collaborative throughout the process? They tapped into the germinating seed of their leadership, though still in its early stage, yet fresh and alive in its becoming. They were grounded in that moral fiber of wanting to do the right thing—to honor their father and to create a welcoming and gracious space for family and friends who came to pay their respects.
I stood back to observe them as they interacted with the gathering of people. Through the lens of my spirited heart, I was deeply touched to watch how they manifested confidence and poise in their grief, warmth in their hospitality, and attentiveness in all their interactions. They were “being” in the moment, ever so gracious in their authenticity.
So, in this recent life event, I concur with my former boss: “I know a leader when I see one.” I am a proud aunt, assured that this seed of leadership that is planted in them will continue to grow and flourish through the mentoring, coaching, and modeling of trusted leaders with integrity.