My late father taught me many business and life lessons. I would give anything to be able to spend 24 hours with him; so many stories to share, laughter and joy as well as some tears to shed. His business lessons included . . .
- No one is indispensable
- Always be honest
- Servant leadership
What is servant leadership?
Servant leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. It is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuas, builds better organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.
And my father was a true servant leader. He ran the accounting division for The Steel Company of Canada and was responsible for Eastern Canada. But he conducted himself as a servant leader as opposed to an old school hierarchal approach. He truly cared for his people, helped them through challenges and hardships and recognized and rewarded their accomplishments. He trusted his employees to do the right thing and empowered them to make the right decision.
On a personal level, he was also a servant leader. He retired in his late 50’s and became a deacon in the Catholic Church. He was an important part of the Helping Others group and focused his energy on helping underprivileged families, young couples considering marriages, baptizing babies into the Catholic Church and so much more.
But the most important consideration is that he would not tell anyone or brag about what he did. It was done quietly and respectfully and he was not looking to be lauded or congratulated.
I often recount the story of going into a photo shop to pick up a framed picture. When the person asked my name, he stopped and said ” Are you Jim Thompson’s son ? ” I said yes. He came around the counter and hugged me in tears as he recounted how his family had experienced hard times when he lost his job. He went to see my father at the church and despite the lack of funds available through the church at the time, my father paid for his mortgage and groceries for several months out of his own pocket. And never told anyone what he had done.
A true servant leader.
James Brendan Thompson.
I miss him every day.