Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, April 25 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
One of my favorite musicians from the 1970s and 1980s is the late Dan Fogelberg. He had a number of hits such as “Part of the Plan,” “Power of Gold” (with Tim Weisberg), “Longer,” “Heart Hotels” and “Same Old Lang Syne.”
However, the Fogelberg song that really struck a chord (pun intended!) with me was “Leader of the Band,” a tribute to his father, a band director. In the song, Fogelberg tells us much about his father, who “earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand” and “his gentle means of sculpting souls” that took his son “years to understand.”
He goes on to thank his father for his kindness and the “times when he got tough.” Ultimately, Fogelberg tells us his “life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man (his father)” and he’s “just a living legacy to the leader of the band.”
This song hits home with me in particular today, the day after what would have been my parents’ 72nd wedding anniversary. As most of you who read this column regularly know, I have a deep respect for the type of people my parents were and the examples they set for me. In addition to my parents, I have had many people – including previous bosses, colleagues, mentors and family members – who have also taught me many things.
Recently, I had a couple of experiences that showed me the ability we have of being living legacies of those who came before us.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interact with a group of people I had worked with and supervised a number of years back, and all of them are still with the organization in which we worked together. As is common in such times when old friends get together, we were able to reminisce. I was extremely gratified that all of them discussed how I positively affected them individually and the organization as a whole. They praised my respect and empathy for everyone and my ability to bring people together to collaborate, which they indicated was quite a feat given the dysfunction of the organization before I was appointed as its leader.
As I reflected on their kind sentiments, it occurred to me that the positive impact they attributed to me was simply a manifestation of those who influenced me. I was merely a conduit of the traits of the people who helped shape me.
Upon further reflection, I realized that it was my parents, through their actions more than their words, who led me to respect all others and be empathetic. It was some of my previous bosses and mentors who modeled the behaviors that inspired collaboration among others. A comment was made during my discussion with my former colleagues that my “DNA” was still rampant throughout the organization, such that the organization has maintained those attributes despite my being gone for a number of years. This really drove home the point of the positive we can do by being living legacies of those who came before us.
Less than a week later, I had a similar experience with my two young adult daughters. Since both of our daughters live in metro Atlanta, my wife, Lorie, and I find ourselves often there visiting them. Since my older daughter, Audie, and I had birthdays that sandwiched that weekend, Lorie and I went to meet up with our daughters to celebrate.
At our birthday dinner and throughout the weekend, I was struck by how proud I was of them. While they both have done well in school and Audie is off to a good start in her first “real job,” I am most proud of the young women they have become. They are honest, respectful, caring, hardworking and generous. They treat other people well and are often very selfless.
While I know most of these attributes were learned from their mother, I like to think my parents and others who have influenced me positively have also played a significant role in how they think and act. I hope I have paid forward the example that others provided me.
My recent experiences certainly provided me important lessons that I think can be impactful to all of us.
First, we need to recognize that we did not achieve any of our accomplishments on our own. Those responsible for our success worked hard to pave a path for us and provide examples of important values such as hard work and respect for other people.
Second, while it might be difficult to thank those who are no longer with us or not a part of our lives on a regular basis, we can honor their contributions by emulating their behaviors and being the people they would want us to be.
Finally, while you might not always meet the standards set by those who came before you, your attempts to do so will be recognized and emulated by those you encounter.
So, as go about your work this coming week, no matter how things are going, know that you can positively impact others by being a living legacy of your own “Leaders of the Band.”