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Leadership Lessons From my Dad

Reflecting on Father’s Day weekend.  I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am to have great fathers in all parts of my life.  I am especially thankful for my dad, Murli Sinha, who instilled so many life and leadership skills in me.

My dad is Indian- grew up in Bihar in a large family.  He came to this country to get advanced degrees.  He was a “resister” of cultural norms:  he refused to have an arranged marriage, created his own career path (instead of doing what his father told him to do), and did not return to India after his studies as his family wanted him to do.  He created his own life as a Sociologist and family man.

As I look back on my childhood, I can clearly see leadership lessons he would instill in my sister and me.  Here’s what he taught me:

  • Family First: Dad always put us first, and we always knew we were loved.  He gave us space to make our own paths without judgement or pressure.  And always supported us along our journey.

  • Reading is Fundamental:  my dad is ALWAYS reading.  He would give us special birthday money to ONLY use for books and would write us a card explaining year after year that “reading is fundamental”.  Even today, I look forward to that card and book money.

  • Travel is the best education:  growing up, I went to India, England, France, Spain and numerous USA destinations. Whenever my dad gave a presentation at a global conference, he brought us with him.  He never hesitated to take us out of school to travel saying, "travel is the best education”.  And he was right.  I’m happy to say that we have carried this on with our children.

  • Discipline is important: My dad would often rise at 3am to work on lectures, presentations and research.  He showed us that discipline was part of being a great leader and taking pride in your work.

  • Do what you love: Life is short-you should do what makes you happy.  He told us that often, but more importantly, he showed us by doing what he loved.  You don’t make a lot of money as a professor, but happiness is worth more than money.

  • Charter Your Own Course: As mentioned earlier, my dad did not follow the cultural norms he was raised with.  He made his own decisions and made a life he was happy and proud of.

  • Life is a giant Sociology Experiment: Whenever I share my troubles or things I am struggling with, my dad takes a calm, sociology approach.  Why are my in-laws so challenging?  Why can’t my boss see how hard I am working?  Why is raising children so hard?  Should I take on this new position or job?   No matter the issue, Sociology could answer it.  He taught me to have patience and understanding for cultures and their norms and practices.

My dad’s lessons have helped to shape who I am in my career and every other aspect of my life.  I am the luckiest to have been raised by him.

And whether you are a dad to children, fur-babies, or are a “second father” to someone special, I hope you take a moment to reflect on all the wonderful ways you shape those around you and give thanks to those who have shaped you. 

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