Leaders Understand, Appreciate & Build Upon Their Heritage

Gerwig 2016-06-27

Do you enjoy driving? I do. And it’s a good thing. These last few days we drove from Connecticut to Arizona via Kentucky. We drove almost 2,800 miles in a Toyota Prius. From Connecticut to Kentucky, we had 4 adults, luggage, and college “stuff.” It was a tight fit. Then, from Kentucky to Arizona, we “only” had 3 adults, luggage, and college “stuff” as we dropped my daughter’s friend off at her home in Kentucky.

During the trip, we drove several hours through the vicious and deadly storms that tragically left 20+ people dead in WV. We were fortunate. We also drove through many states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico. We started our journey in Connecticut at 154′ in elevation and climbed as high as 7,676′ before dropping back to 1,237′ in Arizona. We saw mountains and deserts, cities and farmlands. We had speed limits as low as 45 mph and as high as 75 mph. It was an epic trip, as are all transcontinental road trips.

We drove so we could bring my daughter’s car with her to college. We could have sent it on a car carrier while we flew, but this was much more fun. Great time in the car with family – an adventure! By the time we arrived at my parents’ house in Phoenix, I was ready for break. After 41 hours of driving, I needed to stand for a while, walk around, and stretch. Ahh!

During the epic trip, we talked, listened to music, laughed, told stories, and sang. We also enjoyed moments of quiet. But there was still time (a LOT of it!) for reflection. Among the many things I thought about was my parents. For a variety of reasons, it’s been over year since I’ve seen them. Too long. But I was headed home. And the closer we got, the more anxious I was to see them. And the faster I drove. I began the journey by driving only 5 mph over the speed limit. By the time I arrived, that margin had increased significantly. I was ready to be home, to see my parents. To catch up face-to-face. You see I talk with them almost every day, but there’s something different, special, about spending time with someone face-to face versus remotely via phone, FaceTime, or Skype.

One of the reasons I enjoy spending time with my parents is that they’re great people. I’ve been blessed. God has been so good to me. We’re not rich in material ways but I’m rich in family. My parents have celebrated over 55 years of marriage and their parents over 60 years. It’s a big reason why I’m celebrating 30 years of marriage in two months. It’s legacy. It’s blood. It’s heritage. And it’s an inheritance that I want to pass along to my kids. My parents are also smart, kind, and godly. They made sacrifices for me and for my sister. It’s what my family does. It’s what their parents did for them, my grandparents’ parents did for them, and so on.

I’m thankful for my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents – all of whom have made a big impact on me. And I’m thankful for the generations that preceded them. Though I didn’t know them directly, they had a BIG impact on my (aside from my physical existence). My family has shaped my thoughts and beliefs, provided for me, and loved me. They sent me to college, came to my sporting events, encouraged me and, in general, provided a great environment in which to grow up. And they continue that support and love today.

You might have a similar story to mine. Your family might also be amazing. Or you might have come from a difficult family situation. Regardless, if you’re reading this weekly leadership article, then you have people for which to be thankful. People who have invested in you. Mentors, coaches, aunts, friends, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, neighbors, uncles, and cousins. No one does it “on their own.”

Great leaders understand, appreciate, and build upon their heritage. Great leaders take what they’ve been given and make the most it. We give thanks to those who have invested in us. We show appreciation. We invest in our own families, our own wives, husband, and children. We serve those in our places of employment. We give back to the local community. We humbly accept that we’re not solely responsible for whatever success we enjoy. Thought we can (and should!) add to what we’ve been given, we don’t control what we’ve been given.

Are you intelligent? It’s a combination of genetics and your own hard work. Can you sing, paint. or compose really well? Again, it’s nature and nurture. And you surely did not get there on your own. Partly on your own? Yes, probably. Fully on your own? No way. You and I would not be where we are without others.

In my case, my parents and all those who went before them, played an enormous role in my development, in whatever “success” I’ve had and in the lives of my children. And my strong belief is that they’ll continue to carry the torch and pass “it” along to their children. And so on and so on.

What about you? For whom are you thankful? Upon whose shoulders are you standing? To whom do you owe thanks, a cup of coffee, a hug, a card, flowers, or a handwritten note? Understand, appreciate and build upon your heritage. It’s what great leaders do.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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