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Dad’s Best Advice for Leadership & Life

Running nonprofit organizations and leading a life of purpose require deep competence, courage, compassion and commitment. While we learn a great deal about what it means to lead with character and conviction through school, on-the-job training and continuing education, some of our greatest lessons about life and leadership started much earlier than that — at home.

In honor of Father’s Day, current and former Team NLC staff members are celebrating all the amazing dads out there and remembering those we have lost. To mark this special day, we’re sharing the most important lessons we’ve learned from our dads that have shaped how we lead and live.

1. Go Out of Your Way to Do the Right Thing

“One of the most important lessons I learned from my Daddy is that it’s worth it to go out of your way to do the right thing. One of my favorite memories is when my Daddy borrowed my mom’s stethoscope to find a poor squirrel that got stuck inside our walls. He had to figure out exactly where it was. When he finally found it, he drilled a big hole in the wall (that he had to patch later, of course), threaded a jump rope down into the hole, and coaxed the squirrel to use it as a ramp to run out. Daddy was waiting with a pillowcase to catch him and set him free outside.

“No matter what my dad was doing, he always taught me that everyone, even wild animals, deserve mercy, compassion and a second chance at life. Thanks, Daddy.”

— Laurel Westmoreland, Education & Data Manager

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

2. Walk the Talk

“I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot recently. Three months after my dad walked me down the aisle at my wedding, he died of a heart attack on the way to work. He was the CEO of his own steel company in Pennsylvania and had his own quiet brand of leadership. He led by example and exhibited a deep commitment to responsibility, respectability and loyalty in everything he did. No big lecture, no quotable sayings — just walking the talk with a steadfast commitment to what is right. I strive to emulate him every day.”

— Emily Benham, CEO

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

3. Work Hard & Show Compassion to Everyone

“My father taught me so many things — from being a hard worker to showing genuine love to all people. My dad has never met a stranger. He finds authentic joy in every new conversation he has with someone. My father has shaped the man I am.

“Now as a father myself, it’s amazing to me how my life changed the moment my son entered the world. As I reflect on the best advice my dad ever gave me, I have so many lessons I want to share with my son one day. I want him to know that I’m here for him no matter what. I want him to know he is not the center of the universe but that he exists in connection with all life. And I want him to know that he has the capacity inside himself to choose to show compassion to every person no matter the situation.”

— Andrew Rametta, Former NLC Fellow in Fund Development

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

4. If It’s Worth Your Time, Do It Well

“One of the most important things I learned from my dad is that if something is worth your time to do, then it’s worth doing it well.

“I aspire to put myself wholeheartedly into things I do at work and at home, no matter the work to be done. My dad passed his strong work ethic down to me as a positive, strong role model and example. He was an inspiration to many and to all who knew him in his 90 years of life. He is well remembered for his honesty, keeping his word, and his love of God, family and country as he served in the Philippines on the front lines fighting for peace as the ultimate example of one of the greats in the greatest generation.”

— Lorraine Hall Faithful, Operations Manager, in honor and loving memory of H. Douglas Hall

5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

“The best advice my Dad gave me — and some of the hardest to put into practice when everything about life sometimes seems so very important — was to have a good time. Dad modeled it for me, too; he made life fun. He was a preacher, but he was never sanctimonious. He was a big man, but his grin let you know he was approachable. I have treasured memories of my Dad’s big booming laugh, of him teasing my friends and boyfriends, and making my Mom giggle like a schoolgirl. I have memories of my Dad dancing down the hall and scratching like a chicken in the kitchen. He understood the value of being silly and helping people have a good belly laugh.

“The older I get, the more easily I find the joy in small, everyday moments, and the more comfortable I am being silly. And I’m happier for it. Thanks, Dad.”

— Jen Dodd, Former Director of Education and Communications

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

More Fatherly Advice from Nonprofit Leaders

We asked nonprofit leaders on social media to answer the same question we did: What’s the best advice your dad ever gave you about life and leadership? Here’s what you shared with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

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