Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

If You Were to Die Tomorrow - A Lesson in Leadership


This past Saturday I attended a funeral for a high school classmate of mine who succumbed to her courageous five-year battle with cancer. The church was filled to capacity as the mourners reflected on this young life of 53 years. The service concluded with a eulogy by her husband and father of their two children. I listened intently and compassionately to the words as he reflected on the person, wife and mother she was. As he shared the many characteristics of a beautiful human being I was glad to have known her. The words also triggered a further understanding of the expansive breath of what it means to be a leader. Leadership comes in all human shapes and sizes, as do moms and dads. Yet there are common threads that create the very fabric of effective leadership.

Although title, power, fame and wealth may indicate a person in a position of leadership, that alone does not give credence to being an effective leader. This is illustrated everyday in the failures and incompetence of many of those in positions of power as they fail to understand that genuine leadership is more about the responsibilities to others rather than oneself. Any person who impacts another is a leader. There are many who believe in you, count on you and love you. If you were to die tomorrow what would those you love and those you impacted say about you? Would you even know what you would want them to say? Are you aware of the positive leadership characteristics that are most reflective of you? These are significant questions to ponder since they relate to personal accountability, and taking ownership for the path and direction your life is traveling. In other words, taking ownership for what you want to be remembered for is the key to living a life that is an honest reflection of who you are.

This task of living honorably is undermined consistently as a result of a continued social trend towards excuse making and blaming rather than taking personal responsibility for ones own actions. Where do we find direction in how to effectively lead when there are those who are titled as leaders and yet violate the very foundation of effective leadership? Regardless of political, or corporate affiliation it is abhorrent to witness the true lack of citizen concern and irrational decision making by so many of those who are in positions responsible for the future direction of our society. I would enjoy some day witnessing the words “special interest” not being associated with the meaning of public service. Of course, that will never happen. Personally, I believe this route of economic irresponsibility, decline in moral objectivity and the rupture of core-valued leadership is the result of a lack of personal ownership to the values that are most important to adhere to. Anyone reading this can ascertain his or her own interpretation of my words, but the most important examination is of our own personal leadership. What are the principles that form your decision-making and interaction with others? What are the values that define what it is you stand for and believe in, and are those values projected in your actions? In the throes of being a minor pubic servant I have always known you cannot please everyone, but I do believe you can generate respect and set a positive example by being consistent in your beliefs, open-minded to others’ beliefs, and treating others as you want to be treated, that being with dignity and respect.

Through the years I have experienced a consistent number of character traits that universally translate to being an effective leader whether it be in the office, at home or on the battlefield. Discipline, integrity, commitment, loyalty, perseverance, honor, respect and humility are just some that come to mind. The most important is one of selflessness, and the constant reminder to oneself that the end result of our actions is to benefit and inspire those around us. Returning to the eulogy, it was never mentioned what she had taken during the course of her life, but rather what she had given, and therefore what she will be remembered for. Are those you love and lead better people and leaders themselves for having followed you? When the mirror reflects what you see, is that truly who you are?

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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