Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Elmer Wood, Farmer, Custodian and Executive

You can see his tombstone in Cold Springs Cemetery on Manitoulin Island. Elmer has been gone for over 20 years now. The more I have thought on the life of this man and the part he played in my own, the more thankful I am.

To my knowledge he hasn't been mentioned in any books on leadership or management. He isn't quoted from the stage at high priced seminars and executive functions. Elmer started out a Farmer and ended up a Head Custodian. Beyond his local area, few people know his name, where he lived or what he did.

And lest anyone should turn up their nose with smugness, I can tell you with some assurance that if you work on and display the qualities that Elmer Wood displayed, you will be successful in work, life and leadership.

Elmer Wood ... farmer, custodian, executive and ... my father:

  • He made decisions that would affect the future, well-being and success of our organization (our family)

  • He carefully thought things through

  • He consulted with others, particularly key stakeholders (my Mom and me)

  • He made the tough decisions (to leave the farm)

  • He believed he could do better (and did)

  • He was confident in his ability to learn new skills (and did)

  • He never gave up

  • He never looked down on others for their choices

  • He took advantage of open windows of opportunity (and succeeded)

  • He calculated risk and reward (and chose both when it meant positive outcomes)

  • He held up a new vision for us to move toward

  • His priority was those he cared about most

  • His friendships and community mattered

  • He stayed positive during stressful times (and there were more than even I know)

  • His conduct commanded the respect of those around him (to this day I still hear about him)

  • He didn't beat around the bush but got to the point

  • He knew his priorities and sacrificed for them

  • He gave his responsibilities one hundred percent effort (a model of taking ownership)

  • He didn't shy away from work

  • He made smaller dollars stretch further (again, probably more than I even know)

  • He understood what he could change and what he couldn't (and changed or accepted it)

If you are an executive, you know these are the very qualities that are needed day in and day out. Amazing isn't it, what we can learn from such a man? And these everyday leaders are all around us, if we care to see and acknowledge them. They have been role models, perhaps never attaining high worldly positions but standing as beacons for the generation that followed them.

I hope when all is said and done, I can stand at the mirror and say,
“Mirror, mirror on the wall. I am my father after all.”

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