Thoughts on Leadership: Let’s Celebrate!

This week my travels find me in Southern California, celebrating the holidays with our HSF Affiliates team at our Irvine, CA headquarters. In fact, as I type this to you now, I’m preparing to leave for our annual holiday party, a chance to reconnect with colleagues and deepen the bonds that make us not only co-workers but also friends.

At a quick glance, the event may appear to be a typical company gathering but if you scratch the candy-cane-coated surface, it’s so much more.

Why? Because celebration, defined as the act of taking deliberate time from your day-to-day work to commemorate accomplishments, is actually a major component to effective leadership.

Yes, you read that right. As you swirl your eggnog and dance to “Jingle Bells” this December, you’re executing on an important tenet of leadership.

For one, a holiday celebration like ours at HSF Affiliates—and really, any celebration—is essential when building the kind of collaborative and supportive culture you should constantly strive to create. Remember, culture is an unbeatable competitive advantage and it’s also a byproduct of inspiring leadership. By showing your team you recognize and applaud the achievement of their goals, you’re motivating them to achieve even more. Your team’s accomplishments—no matter how big or how small—always deserve to be commended.

I’ve long been a fan of celebrating the small wins because in the aggregate, these little celebrations add up to major self-esteem boosters that can positively affect your team’s collective mindset. (As you know, a positive mindset is critical in business and life.) Plus, when you celebrate and have fun, you’re motivated to do more things that will allow you to celebrate yet again. As Oprah Winfrey famously said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Here’s another quote that applies from Jim Collins, bestselling author of Good to Great: “Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity … are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.” And as Henry Ford once said, “Mediocrity is the worst enemy to prosperity.” To summarize, anyone who prefers to be mired in mediocrity rather than basked in brilliance, is taking the safe, easy way out. But success isn’t easy. Success is hard. The road to real, true success is not for the faint of heart or for those who prefer to travel light, carrying a single suitcase filled with only the comforts of the commonplace.

In order to avoid mediocrity, every opportunity must be taken to call out those amazing accomplishments that make your team, your business and your leaders great. It’s for that very reason we’ve gathered our HSF Affiliates team in Irvine for our holiday party. We’ll laugh, we’ll reminisce, we’ll remember the milestones reached this past year, and in doing so, motivate ourselves to make the coming year even better.

So, what’s the message? Well, it’s one I hope you take to heart at every holiday party you attend: To celebrate is to remember the good in life. It’s a chance to refocus your energies away from whatever challenges you may face, recall how very far you’ve come and align yourselves in the direction you want to go.

Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to George H.W. Bush

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Northern California and next in Orange County for meetings with our team. Instead of discussing the current state of our brands, or what I’ve read this week, today I want to reflect on a leader recently lost, the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush.

I watched the funeral service of President George H.W. Bush on Wednesday morning—I was lucky enough to meet him at a conference in 1998—and was profoundly moved by how many important leadership lessons he imparted and how many leaders he inspired throughout his life.

The funeral service was expectedly massive and brought together leaders from all sides of the aisle—every living President sat side by side—and produced so many stirring speeches from those who knew Bush best.

Historian Jon Meacham, Bush’s biographer, spoke at the service first, telling the gripping—and true—tale of Bush as a young Navy pilot, when his bomber plane was tragically downed by enemy fire somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Sadly, Bush’s crew members perished in the attack and when the young pilot realized he was the lone survivor, “felt the weight of responsibility as a nearly physical burden and he wept,” said Meacham. “The rest of his life was a perennial effort to prove himself worthy of his salvation on that distant morning.”

The experience solidified the virtues by which the President led: selflessness and sympathy. Even as a world leader, Bush was forever ready to offer a warm word or sympathetic tear.

Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister, described the past President as someone with a “delightful sense of humor.” He said he was a leader who was “a lot of fun.” Bush loved to laugh, especially at himself. And as Bush’s leadership style affirmed, if you can have fun doing what you do, the infectious, joyous energy you project will shine onto all those you lead. President Bush was “genuinely content with the thrill and promise of each passing day,” Mulroney said.

Bush also lived by a simple credo: What would we do without family and friends? Alan Simpson, the former Senator of Wyoming from 1979-1997, spoke about how Bush was there for him years ago, when the future of his political career was uncertain. At the time, Bush was at the top of his game and Simpson’s own approval rating was fast sinking toward zero. Simpson asked Bush why he was willing to help him out, even after the former Wyoming Senator pledged his allegiance to the presidential candidacy of Ronald Regan. Bush simply replied: “This is about friendship and loyalty.”

Bush understood the importance of upholding friendships not only when his friends were doing well and thriving but also—and more importantly—when his friends were at their lowest. If others turned their backs, he offered an outstretched hand.

Bush’s son, George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, also spoke at the service. “To his very last day, dad’s life was instructive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow with dignity, humor and kindness,” he said. Like Meacham, the 43rd President said his father was profoundly changed by the tragedies in his life. “I think those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life,” he explained, characterizing his father as a “genuinely optimistic man.” President H.W. Bush looked for the good in each person and usually found it.

So, what’s the message? Let’s end this tribute with words from the former President’s inaugural address: “What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?” In all endeavors, as George H.W. Bush proved, we shouldn’t lead with a desire for our own success but instead with a desire to build and grow the success of others. Because success, as the 41st President of the United States defined it, wasn’t about titles or accolades. It was about family and friends who will carry on your legacy of benevolence long after your final day.

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