When my 93 year old dad passed away a couple of weeks ago, I came across this helpful question, “When thinking about the life of the person that you’ve lost to death, what — of themselves — have they given you to help you move through the rest of your life?” In my father’s case, one of the many things that he gave us was his great compassion and genuine interest in others. I have written before about his uncanny ability to listen to others and turn people around.
He recently listened intently to our family friend Colin as he talked about a spate of woes that had caused major losses to his small business. My father said he understood how distressing it must have been for him. When Colin said he had lost his confidante after his mother passed away, my father invited him to come around for a cup of tea and a chat if he ever wanted to clear his head. Colin, who is not usually known for showing his emotions, was deeply moved by my dad’s kind offer. He said he suddenly felt a whole lot better after the conversation with my father and his simple gesture of support.
My dad was doing what leaders do, connecting with and taking an interest in people. Whether it is our team members, clients or stakeholders, everyone has a story about something that is important to them. Since sharing the story about Colin and my father, I have heard other similar examples of people being touched by leaders who took an interest in them and brought out the best in them. Those leaders will be remembered for their compassion and humanity.
Researchers from the Harvard Business School found that one of the things that contributes to people being successful and happy over the long term is leaving a legacy, i.e. pursuing activities through which we can pass our values and knowledge on to others. In my father’s case his legacy is the example he gave us of his unlimited compassion for others.
How would you like to be remembered?