What Death Taught Me About Leadership

What Death taught me about Leadership

As John Maxwell stated: Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.

Recently my son passed away. He was 34. It was unexpected.

As you can imagine, we were in shock and, frankly, overwhelmed.

We had trouble putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing got through to us unless it required our immediate attention.

During this time, we received numerous emails and text messages from people who wanted to help. The would ask us questions like, “Is there anything you need?”, or “What can I do to help?” or “if you want to talk, just let me know.”

How could we possibly answer those questions? We were so stunned we forgot to eat or buy food for our guests.

So how does this situation apply to leadership?

Leadership is not about asking, it is about taking action.

It is Paula, who dropped of a salad, with all the fixing. Thankfully she didn’t ask, she just showed up. It was a very good thing because we did not have food ready for our visitors. This was a lifesaver. Thank you, Paula.

It is Matthew, who took off a day of work and helped clean out my son’s apartment. It would have been so much more difficult with his help. Thank you, Matt.

It is Bob, who brought a rosebush. There is a great story behind this that Bob did not know about. Thank you, Bob.

It was Frank and Mike who called and asked us how were we’re doing, They did not send us a card or an email. They called. Thank you, Mike and Frank.

In a time of crisis, a leader does not ask, they do and there was so much to be done.

Don’t ask what you can do, do something: walk the dog, bring some food, stop by for a visit, mow the lawn, take them out for a drink, help them take a break. There is no limit to what needs to be done.

The people who took a leadership position made life easier for us during this troubled time.

Many people are afraid of imposing. Don’t worry you are not imposing. Having some of these activities taken off our plates really helped. And if it is something not needed immediately, just the fact that you thought of us and wanted to help is so very much appreciated.

It can be scary walking into a home where there is the potential of so many raw emotions. Most people don’t want to or don’t know how to handle this much emotion.  You do not have to fix anything. Sometimes a hug is the best medicine a person can receive. Thankfully, I did receive some powerful hugs. Thanks, Robert, Joe, David, Seth, Eric, and Jeff. Hugs can be powerful medicine. Hugs communicate is ways words never could. It takes a leader to reach out like this.

The best comment I received was, “I have no words.”

Please don’t tell me your story in excruciating detail. It is hard to stay present and harder still when you make it about you. Sitting in silence can be powerful. But please, share your story. One gentleman told me how he lost his son and this to will pass. It took a total of 1 seconds. Knowing someone went through this was powerful for me, knowing someone who knew what I was going through helped. Thank you, Ken.

As you can see, most of these activities take a little time and cost little.

I do not want to minimize the impact of a Sympathy card or a well thought out email or text. They are important.   The support from these forms of communication is invaluable. However, take the time and do something, act. Don’t count on the family to guide you because they cannot. There are having a hard time keeping their heads above water.

There were some many nice things people did that I did not mention here. I don’t want to forget you. Thank you, especially to my daughter Emily was invaluable in helping in this most difficult time.

Rest assured, the smallest action will be treasured. Special thanks to David who visited and just let me talk. He did not try to fix anything. This simple gesture was invaluable in helping me gain some clarity.

There is no difference between helping and leading; both require action. Don’t place the burden on the grieving family to make decisions. They have many difficult decisions to make. If you are going to reach out, be a leader and do something, no matter how small because it helps.

Ron Finklestein








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