My personal and professional mentor, Col Dick O’Grady USAF (1937-2018), had 3 critical attributes that sealed the deal for me as a growing leader. Besides our common values, he had these 3 fundamental (and somewhat paradoxical) characteristics –
- Courageous, confident, and humble. Dick was determined to live by the standards he promoted and that’s never easy. All humans have doubts and fears, but I never saw them in him. It seemed that his clarity about his values and standards gave him courage. His commitment was such that he just buckled up and marched into the fire with confidence that doing the right thing would take him where he was supposed to go. His inner confidence and courage enabled him to be humble and strong and those quite often don’t go together.
- Optimistic and realistic. Dick was a naturally upbeat, fun-loving extrovert, and his positive energy lifted everyone around him. He greeted others with a big smile and a warm welcome as if they were the most important person in the world. It was always bright, exciting and fun to be with this leader. Paradoxically, he was also an extremely detailed planner. At the beginning of every day, he considered the mission, project, or challenge and planned the steps. I believe that knowing the way ahead helped sustain his positive expectations about success.
- Caring and confronting. Dick cared about his people. He was intentional about getting to know them, and he knew the name of every spouse in the unit and names of most of the kids. He knew who was hurting and made sure they were encouraged and supported. But when someone was out of step, he did not hesitate to call them aside and give correction. This red-headed Irishman was direct and clear—he let you know quickly what the issue was and how to get back on track. Beneath it all was a deep caring for others.
Please share your comments below on your favorite mentor leadership attributes–we welcome your wisdom!
Also, read the entire article on Dick O’Grady and his legacy of honorable leadership – “3 Leadership Characteristics of My Mentor, Col Dick O’Grady”