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  • Writer's

Will Your Funeral Sound Different From Your Retirement?

As a leader, how will you be remembered at your retirement?

As a loved one, how will you be remembered at your funeral?

I’ve never been to a celebration of life that was exclusively focused on how “efficient, goal-oriented, and results-driven” the departed was.

But you may recall a time when a departing leader was honored for her compassion, strength, kindness, resolve. When she was fondly remembered more for her character, less for her credentials. When she was remembered with words we often hear in a eulogy.

This would have been a person who understood that leadership was a privilege to

serve people entrusted to her care.


To be sure, there are any number of logistical, financial, operational, administrative, or legal issues that land on our shoulders that require some degree of technical proficiency, experiential familiarity, or managerial expertise.

But while what is required of us comes from the outside, how we respond comes from the inside.

In those moments of stress, duress, austerity, anxiety, or fear, do we pretend like our reactions are unaffected by our emotions? Do we coldly maneuver our “resources” like pawns on a chessboard?

Or, do we privately acknowledge what we’re feeling and then empathetically account for both the sentiments and thoughts of those for whom we’re responsible?

A tactical and commanding presence does have its place. Twenty-five years in the Air Force as a pilot and commander with multiple combat tours taught me that. It just can’t be our only gear.

We must have the capacity to understand ourselves and consider others.

Self-awareness and awareness of those on our teams meet at the intersection called empathy, and empathy forms the foundation of authentic leadership. Authentic leadership that sometimes require us to take measures that disappoint some, or anger others.

But if you just want to be remembered as effective and efficient, keep managing your resources.

However, if you're leading your people, you won’t need a pre-read on your eulogy, where, despite your mistakes and imperfections, you’re remembered for your grace, strength, humility, caring, perseverance, compassion.

You would have already heard it at your retirement.


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