I participated in a class recently aimed at helping refine leadership ideals and understand deeper levels of what it means to be an agile leader. As part of the class, we were given an assignment to write our own eulogy that would be given by our spouse that outlined what kind of leader we were and how our leadership values impacted those family members around us. Sounds pretty emotionally heavy, right? You would be correct.
I spent some time in quiet contemplation when first receiving this assignment. I thought it would just pour out quickly. I know who I am, right? This was not the case. I truly needed to think on this. And as I thought quietly secluded in a corner, I welled up with tears a bit. Partially as I took this exercise very seriously to open myself up to but also in the recognition that it didn’t come pouring out. Fear had set in a bit.
I began to ask myself, “how am I a leader both inside my personal and professional life”?
I came home and told my wife about my assignment and she knew it was something serious and personal to me (although she admonished me to chastise the instructor that he was “walking on my grave”, it’s a Southern thing, by making me face thoughts of the end of my mortal coil, which I made sure to do the next day)
I stayed up late that night, jotting down notes, thinking of both work and life situations not really knowing if I could get this done. Being an early riser, I was hours early for our next class session so with a fresh new pen, I wrote my eulogy in the parking lot of a local grocery store under the light of a parking lot lamp.
When we arrived at class, we gathered together and were asked if we would care to read what we wrote. I was prepared to do so, although I knew just from the writing of it hours early, it was very emotional to me. One person leapt into the fray and read theirs aloud. I had insight to this personally respected individual and it was a moving an accurate portrayal of them and their impact on life through their skills as a leader.
Being inspired by their courage, I raised my hand to go next. I made it through the first paragraph before I was filled with tears and unable to continue. It was just too close to me to read aloud. I have never sought to be the front man to an ideal, but my values derive from making an idea great and working to inspire others or give them the idea to sell effectively. So talking about myself and my leadership skills are a core component to who I am as a person as they are a very real part of me. Thinking about this being read after I was gone, just made me really take stock of if I am being the leader I am portraying in this speech.
I was unable to share this completely with my classmates, but I feel the need to share it and so I share it with you now:
“We are here to celebrate the life of my husband Todd, a husband, a father, a son and a leader. Todd was always a staunch idealist who never saw things as completed. He approached ideas in which he believed with tireless work to explore and grow from them. Living in the world of ideas, he occasionally experienced personal frustration when the reality misaligned to the ideal, but always stayed true to the idea as a whole.
Being a thinker, he often conflicted with his wife’s action-driven approach with quiet introspection on a problem before action or the want to create collaboration before action. Purposeful in thought, his actions were always carried out as intentional. I am especially blessed and grateful to him as he stepped in to be a kind an loving father to my daughter even in the face of difficult issues for her. His guidance and life coaching helped us guide her into the beautiful and amazing young woman she is today.
His parents have told me stories of his life as a child as a selfless giver who often gave away items for the joys of others as they felt it brought joy to him. He continued this into his adult life with those he encountered and tried to work without restraint or self-regard to make sure folks felt appreciated and noticed.
While he was always open to ideas, he never abandoned his values in the face of adversity or resistance to change. Never one to do well with too many obligations happening at once, he embraced the idea of focus and drive to make a single point happen; being overwhelmed at times by chaos and creating his own stress by taking on more than he should.
He always strove to be a leader from the back of the room and was driven to make others successful through his effort. He experienced personal satisfaction knowing he had done something good, speaking with others and seeing others shine in the spotlight.
His passing leaves a hole in my heart and a beautiful and giving light for others has done dark. I know he would hope that the things he did in life pushed things a little farther, made people think a little more or helped people grow. Ultimately I know he would hope that he helped create something good for those who continued on after him …”
This exercise was idealistically very stimulating but emotionally draining. It helped me put those ideals down to paper that I hoped to leave behind, examine who I am and how I saw myself. A very powerful and moving thing to do. But also, a humbling experience as after you take the time to really examine this, you immediately ask yourself … “Am I living up to the qualities in which I want to have as a leader? Will this truly be the thoughts of my loved ones in understanding what I value and what I try daily to do in my life”?
You don’t have to do this exercise to get to these answers, you can just start by writing down what is important to you, what your values are and what you seek to show to others as a leader. Take these notes and be open and honest and ask yourself (or ask someone close to you who will be honest and open) … “is this who I am? Is this how you see me?’ If what you seek to be is misaligned to what you are today, this mean you have some ideas of where you want to go. Who couldn’t appreciate that clarity?
I’ll end this very personal and open post with the following quote:
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson