Are You a Leader?

I owe my understanding of successful leadership to my dad, who demonstrated that leadership is a bond between the leader and those he leads.

 Lessons I Learned from my Father

I owe my understanding of successful leadership to my dad, who demonstrated that leadership is a bond between the leader and those he leads. This bond is built on credibility, sincerity and integrity. Lose the bond and your effectiveness as a leader is gone.

As a young man, on the rare occasion I had a day off, I would drive Dad to one of our farm locations then sit in the backseat and watch and listen as he and the farm manager would tour the fields. Dad’s leadership style was empowering. He asked questions and rarely gave a direct order. By asking questions, he brought the manager to an appropriate decision and left him feeling the action he was going to take was his own.

Lifelong Learning

My dad, along with his two brothers, was a self-educated man. Together they built a very successful land and agricultural enterprise by utilizing the experiences of others which they discovered in books, business magazines and through the conversations they had with successful people they respected. That’s another thing he taught me – there is much to be learned from those around us. Seek out and listen to your peers, competitors and trusted friends. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to share their secrets to success.

Dad demonstrated that life is about learning and growing as a person and a leader. The minute you stop growing, you begin to decline – just like the plants in your garden or, in our case, the crops on the farm. If your goal is to be a vibrant leader, then you must keep learning and growing in your leadership skills.

Our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, died in his sleep. When they came to remove him from his bed, they found a book under his pillow. Until the very end of his life, Roosevelt was still striving to learn and improve himself. My dad was the same – reading and learning up to the very end. At 71, I haven’t lost my appetite for knowledge or to improve my effectiveness as a leader; the only difference is I read on my Kindle and search the Internet.

Keys to Leadership Excellence

Great leadership comes by utilizing several actions that build faith and trust between the leader and those he leads. Before he died, my dad shared his knowledge and experiences with us. Here are some of the successful leadership practices and actions he passed along:

  • A leader is generous with praise and stingy with criticism. Compliment and praise in public among fellow employees; give corrective direction in person, privately.
  • When evaluating a manager’s work, always begin with a compliment then work into the performance review and the corrective action needed.  Dad always said, “Make it a sandwich; put the corrective action needed between two compliments.” This approach puts the individual in a positive mood, gains his attention at the beginning, and ends the review on a positive note.
  • Think and talk in the best interest of the other person, not your own self-interest. Let the other person talk while you listen.
  • A leader sets the example for others to follow. Let your actions speak for you. Don’t ask anyone to do something you would not do yourself.
  • Be on time, be fair and never make a promise you don’t plan to keep. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Be truly interested in your people. They make you successful and allow you and your business to grow. At our company, we have always said that our people are our most valued asset.
  • Lead your people, don’t try to push them. People are very hard to push – it’s like trying to push a rope
  • Stand up for your people and your team. Give them the credit when things go great and take most of the blame and criticism when results aren’t where they need to be. My dad would say, “We made a mistake. You did a fine job.” He shared the blame and gave the employees credit and praise whenever appropriate.

Dad demonstrated that successful leaders help others succeed beyond their dreams. He knew that the more he empowered his people, the more success would follow. I hope by sharing some of my dad’s simple steps and actions of successful leadership I have inspired you to continue to grow as a leader.



Joseph Duda is the retired CEO and currently serves as the chairman of the board for A. Duda & Sons and is the retired president and CEO of The Viera Company.

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