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Courtnie Weber

Leadership Lessons from my Father(s)

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You know, I’m a lucky woman - despite the circumstances that led me here, I’ve had several very strong father figures in my life that have helped guide who I am today.  I was blessed with a great dad, who has loved me unconditionally – even when we don’t get along.  I have a great stepdad that treated my brother and I as his own children.  I also can’t forget one of the most influential men in my life – my grandfather.  My grandfather has been my rock; he loves wholly, unconditionally, and with a certain sense of safety that lets you know everything is going to be okay.  All three of these amazing men have taught me lessons and strategies that I use every day.

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1) Work smarter, not harder

These infamous words, taught to me by my dad, have reverberated throughout my life..  To be honest, I don’t think he even taught me them on purpose.  But my father has always been one to find the smartest way to fix a problem.  Learning to find the smartest solution, and avoiding the ones that required a big chunk of work, guides how I choose to lead my friends and coworkers.  We save time and money if we work smarter, and not necessarily harder.

2) Be fearless 

I had to have been about 10 years old when my father taught me this lesson, but it has stuck with me throughout my life.  We drove up to a car dealership, walked in, and found a salesman.  We sat down at his desk.  My dad told the salesman the car he wanted, what he wanted to put down, and the interest rate he wanted.  The salesman said he couldn’t do it, and my dad just got up and walked out!  But we did end up with that car in the end.  My dad knew what he wanted, and he wasn’t afraid to walk away from anything that wasn’t exactly what he was looking for.  That fearlessness has translated over the years to everything from getting tattoos to riding rollercoasters and motorcycles together.  But it’s the same fearlessness I’ve loved all my life; this is a man who will do anything, and isn’t afraid to try something new.  I often find that same fearlessness in myself.  I’ll always try something new, and I love encouraging my friends and colleagues to do the same thing.

3) Fight for what’s right  

My stepdad embodies a lot of the same lessons my dad taught me early on – he reinforces the idea of being fearless, working smarter not harder, and they both believe in fighting for what’s right.  My dad has been in the Air National Guard for most of my life, and works as a full-time civilian at an Air Force National Guard Base in my hometown.  He surely knows something about fighting for what’s right, but so does my stepdad.  My stepdad has always stood up for me – I remember when he almost got kicked out of my younger brother’s hockey game for doing so!  There was a bit of scuffle with a boy on the opposing team; a 16- or 17-year-old kid was upset about being ejected from his hockey game, and I was the target of his frustration.  He started yelling and screaming at me, calling me names, and trying to insult me.  But my stepdad immediately stepped in to protect me, and told the kid to knock it off, and to never speak that way to other people.  He wasn’t afraid to do what was right, and I loved him for that.  That lesson is something I work hard to remember.  There are an endless amount of things going wrong in the world, but I can do something about it.  I can give a voice to people who don’t have one, and I can say something when needed.  And it’s because of men like my dad and stepdad that I can leave my own mark on the world.

4) Love unconditionally   

In an upbringing that’s been pretty tumultuous, that has never really settled still for even a minute, and has included a lot of stress, my grandpa has never even once showed me anything but unending love.  It’s the kind of love that makes you feel safe; it makes you feel like you can do anything and be anyone, no matter what the world says.  It’s the kind of love that manifests when he won’t let your hand go while he’s recovering from open-heart surgery and can’t sleep.  It’s the kind of love that let’s you cry in his arms, or go for a drive just to clear your mind, or gives you a place to escape when your world gets to be too much, and knows better than to ask questions.  It’s a love that doesn’t judge, but sure as hell will tell you when you’re wrong or stubborn.  It’s the kind of love that lets you accept that criticism, with the safety of knowing he’s not disappointed, and only wants you to be the best you that you can be.  Learning to share that kind of love in my life has been my greatest hurdle, and while I’d like to think it’s something that comes with time and age, I know that this is a kind of love my grandpa has shared his whole life.  This kind of love is one that could make the world a better place, and I hope it’s genetic, because the world needs a love like this.

My father, stepdad, and grandpa have taught me the kinds of lessons you learn only by watching, and by seeing their personalities shine through.

Over the years, I’m not sure the men I looked up to knew the lessons they were teaching me.  Sure, they instilled within me a sense of independence, and helped me learn from my mistakes.  They guided me through life, as any parent should.  But what they may not have realized is that I noticed; I saw the times they did the right thing, the times they exhibited courage when being scared was a perfectly acceptable response, and the times they were tender and sweet and forgiving, despite my own shortcomings.   I’ve taken a lot of things from my mother – her eyes and smile, her quick wit, and her desire to never stop achieving – and she knows that she’s been an amazing influence in my life.  But my father, stepdad, and grandpa have taught me the kinds of lessons you learn only by watching, and by seeing their personalities shine through.  The kinds of lessons you can use to lead the next generation of achievers, of doers, and of influencers.  Leadership lessons from my fathers turned out to be life lessons I’ll never forget.

 

Courtnie is a licensed attorney, and the Member Engagement Manager at WeWork. She’s a Chicagoan in New York City, with a deep love for live music, sports, and craft beer. With her husband of 3 years, Courtnie is raising 2 fur-babies and finding her path in life.

 

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