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Agile Leadership Lessons From My Dad

June 22, 2015

Father's Day offered an annual moment for me to reflect on the journey of a humble and influential man whose life was tragically cut short in 2002 - my Dad. Although it has been a number of years since his passing, he continues to shape my mindset in meaningful and profound ways.

I hope all of our readers had a chance to enjoy Father's Day in some meaningful way - either in person or through cherished memories. As we enter another week in organizations, I invite you to consider some important Agile leadership lessons that my Dad taught me:


1. Agile leaders tap into the potential of people through kindness and empathy.

As suggested by many in my profession, kindness is an Agile value that is baked into the DNA of a genuine leader. I made many costly mistakes during my childhood, but rather than 'corrective action' and a fear of unforgiving punishment, my Dad would turn my mistakes into powerful learning conversations between us - all in an effort to help me grow and improve. When I had a troubled moment, he would gently connect my sorrow to a shared experience from his own childhood, the consequences he (also) suffered, and the valuable lessons he had learned. With his capacity for empathy, we would walk the learning path together, and through a kind demeanor, he helped me keep a clear head as I would think through my own failures and search for new & improved ways of handling situations throughout my childhood and into adulthood.


In my travels through organizations small and large, I (sadly) don't witness genuine kindness enough from authoritative leaders in the workplace. We have an enormous opportunity to develop our own leadership potential by simply recognizing that we all have weaknesses, we all make mistakes, and that kindness is a stance for encouraging healthy, continuous learning in everyone.


2. Agile leaders fuel connections that lead to positive outcomes.

As an early riser, my Dad had a specific morning routine that led him to one of our small-town breakfast establishments where various city figures would congregate daily. The police chief, public servants and local business leaders would use those cherished early mornings to share a pot (or three!) of coffee and discuss various topics of interest. When I would visit my hometown during college breaks, Dad would invite me to join these breakfasts and I always remember how he would scan the newspaper, point to an opinion article, then ask provocative questions to the breakfast crew to generate discussion. The dialogue that followed was rich, full of productive and respectful debate (and even conflict), but with his warm smile, deep knowledge of our community's founding principles, and incredible never forget a face or a name talent, everyone would leave breakfast with an ever-stronger bond. His ability to strengthen the connections between these city leaders would have a lasting effect in our community. These were the people (in positions of power) who shaped city and county policy, and we found that the environment for these breakfast conversations always centered around a common purpose that would feed into decisions that held positive intent for the community at large. Although my Dad did not hold an authoritative position in our hometown, his conversational skills and approachable personality held great influence on how these community leaders would think and act on behalf of the citizens. It was never about him - it was always about others and influencing them to think of the greater good.



You don't have to be in a titled position of authority to be an influential leader in your organization. Spend time getting to know people for real, what they care about, and learn how to facilitate open dialogue by creating trusted relationships between others where vulnerability is valued. Connect people to a common, positive purpose that aligns with your organization's vision of the future. Reinforce this common purpose when conversations get heated.


3. Agile leaders sacrifice their personal egos for a purpose greater than their own.

My Dad was incredibly humble ... almost to a fault. He never took credit for anything, nor did he feel an urge to put his ego front & center for his own personal gain. The man was super intelligent, an uncanny connector-of-people, instilled a deeply-rooted value system in his boys, and sacrificed so much of himself in an effort to bring out the best in our community and our family. When he died, he only had $100 cash to his name, but if you had seen how many people came and spoke about him at his funeral, you would've thought that he rolled in riches.



Despite years of mentoring from my Dad, it took a long time for this learning to sink into my natively-wired, ego-centric personality. I eventually discovered that success is not about me - it's about connecting to a larger purpose that is meaningful, positive and can change an organization for the better. With that thinking, high-performance is the lagging indicator of success. As an Agile leader, you realize that people are not a threat to your career - in fact, your goal is to lift everyone around you to become better than you. In order to align with that thinking, you must search deep into your soul and decide what's important - fueling your ego to the next job promotion, or serving a greater purpose that brings out the best in others?


Daniel Sloan (IV) and Daniel Sloan (III) - Univ. of Florida Homecoming 1999



Daniel Sloan (IV) and Daniel Sloan (III) - Univ. of Florida Homecoming 1999



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I am living my passion at The Madison Henry Group by teaching, mentoring and coaching People, Teams and Organizations to high levels of performance in an Agile environment. I would be privileged to collaborate with you at one of my upcoming public events. Would an introductory leadership coaching session benefit you? Reach out and allow me the opportunity build a trusted relationship with you and your Teams.

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