My father, the late Dr. Claude H. Rhea, Jr., executed and exemplified lessons on leadership throughout his short life of sixty-two years. He was a strategic visionary, a 32-year colon cancer survivor, a member of the prestigious Royal Society of the Arts, an accomplished international lyric tenor who recorded five albums (one with the Concert Orchestra of London), a published author (including his autobiography, a cook book and two song books for children), a Dean of a Music School and a President of a College.
These are his life lessons for leadership:
- Creed. Create a mission statement for your life and your job. Each professional and personal project you undertake should fall under the tenets of your creed and belief system. An important part of my dad’s creed was to make faith an action verb and to honor God in all that he did.
- Heed. Surround yourself with people that can provide insight and wisdom, even if you disagree with them. You should always understand all sides of an issue before making key decisions. Connect with others and network.
- Read. Empower yourself with knowledge. My dad started each morning by reading the Bible. He was a voracious reader of all types of books. Throughout his whole life, my dad learned a new word a day. He always said a common thread of leaders and CEOs was a powerful command of an extensive and excellent vocabulary. Here’s a good resource. (Click here.)
- Knead. Work hard at what you do! Success doesn’t just happen. You must roll up your sleeves to roll in the proverbial dough. And, an important part of working is asking. That was one of my dad’s greatest leadership lessons for me. He applied this to his fund-raising efforts: “Don’t be afraid to knock on a door and ask. The worst thing someone could do is say ‘no.’ and then you just knock on someone else’s door.” Kneading takes commitment and perseverance. Never give up!
- Feed. Even as a college president, my dad would invite new students and faculty to our home. He would prepare the meal and serve the guests. My dad had the heart of a servant. He also believed that many problems could be resolved and goals discussed over a full stomach.
- Seed. Take the time to invest in other people’s lives either intellectually or financially. Grow your business or ministry by planting seeds of wisdom, hope and experience within others. I found out after my dad died that he had set aside a Seed Fund to quietly help families that needed a little extra financial sustenance and students that needed scholarships.
- Weed. Yank negativity by the roots and banish it from your organization and home. Be positive and stay positive even when challenges arise. At breakfast each morning, my dad would start my day by saying, “Something good is going to happen to you today.”
- Speed. Be quick with compliments and always respond in a timely manner to phone calls and correspondence. Don’t be in a rush to make things happen. My dad always said, “God’s trains run on time.” During the “meanwhile”; however, when nothing seems to be happening in spite of the hard work, we can still learn strategic lessons and encounter opportunities for personal and professional growth.
- Greed. Avoid it! Make each challenging situation a win/win for everyone. Share your success with others. Typically, you alone are not responsible. Success comes from teamwork.
- Deed. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Each person needs to feel validated in life no matter who they are or what they do. My dad treated everyone the same—CEOs and janitors. He always taught me that “Everyone is God’s child.” I’ll never forget one afternoon when I visited him at his office. As we were leaving, he spent ten minutes with the janitor who was mopping the floors. My dad asked by name about each member of this janitor’s family.
- Exceed. Go beyond expectations. Deliver quality and quantity and always be consistent with delivering your top performance.
- Need. My dad’s mantra was to “touch the near edge of a great need and at some sacrifice to yourself, act upon it and make a difference.” Go beyond the here and now of your life. Identify a real need in your community or in the world and do something about it. You will inspire your employees, friends and family with your actions to effect change.
These twelve points are just a few of the lessons from my dad on how to lead and succeed. He always stressed that each person should have a vision of what it is he or she wants to do, to build, or to become. As Dan McCreary said, “Managers think about today. Leaders think about tomorrow.” Dream big and go for it!