Leadership lessons from my father

Charissa Acree

Charissa Acree (IL May-November 2015, FL ’14), vice president, RunSwitch PR

By Charissa Acree

A recent post on Leadership Louisville Center’s Facebook page asked: “What’s the most important lesson in leadership you’ve learned from your father?” It’s a highly-appropriate question for Father’s Day; for me personally, it is a question I ponder all the time.

Ignite Louisville is going to shape the future of my professional and personal development significantly. Up until this point in my career, I have always focused on my shortcoming and spent many a sleepless night mulling over the plethora of knowledge, experience and expertise I do not yet possess. I constantly ponder how I can be a better daughter, sister, friend and colleague.

In just one month of programming, Ignite Louisville has forced me to examine (for the first time) the areas where I do not fall short. Rather, they have pointed to my strength and the areas where I am wired to excel.

Near the end of our first official program day on June 17th, Al Cornish, Chief Learning Officer for Norton Healthcare, concluded an afternoon of thought-provoking exercises and discussion by asking each of us to develop a statement that captured how we each planned to apply the lessons we were learning to our daily personal and professional lives. He shared his own statement with us. It was genuine and it was moving.

I wrote several sentences in the minutes he gave us to get our statements started. But, the more I thought about my “Leadership Legacy” the more clearly I realized what it needed to say. Finally, I scratched through everything else I had written and simply wrote what I hope people would say about me decades from now: “She was her father’s daughter.”

My father passed away in December 2012 after a very short and excruciating battle with cancer. We were always close throughout his life. He was a teacher, a mentor and a constant friend who taught me many lessons in the 28 years we shared.

But the greatest lesson that my father ever taught me came after his death: it came in the form of the countless strangers who sent emails and Facebook messages or stood in a line for hours to tell my family just this: “Your father changed my life.”

It turns out that my father spent his working hours investing in the lives of others. He was unselfish in his willingness to teach and coach them; he was a constant resource and a listening ear. He was a life-long learner whose passion for knowledge and understanding sparked that same desire in others.

Over the next six months, I know that Ignite Louisville is going to bend and push and mold me into someone who is equipped to be a better leader: whether at home or in the workplace. Finally free of the mentality of focusing on my shortcomings, I’m looking forward to further exploring my strengths. And like my father, I want those strengths to work together for the betterment of others: I want to be someone who profoundly impacts lives.

Learn more about the Ignite Louisville program