I never thought the day would come that my dad would actually retire. As I was getting ready this morning, I reflected on his success in business, but what really stood out to me was the respect and admiration he had from his superiors, peers and the people who worked on his team. This is especially rare because he is the most competitive person I know — he’s driven, opinionated, assertive and a stickler for deadlines.

He sweats the small stuff.

Because I share many of the same traits, I decided to write down the things I’ve heard or observed over the last 39 years as it relates to business (and life in general). Although my father worked in a very different industry, anyone who performed at his level and had the respect and admiration of teammates is a worthy role model.

I found the list to be really interesting and thought it might resonate with others as well, so I decided to share these few leadership observations:

Invest in People

Dad spent time getting to know the individual team members, their stories and their dreams. This wasn’t a task or lip service, it was genuine. If it wasn’t, people would see right through it.  This is hard to do with nearly 200 employees, but he had a connection with each and every one of them. Dad cared about them and in turn they would move mountains for him.

Work Hard, Be Visible

Dad worked hard and for long hours. He set the pace, the rhythm and the level of expectation across the business. He’d walk the docks, spend time with dispatch, moved product (even when he shouldn’t) and rode with the sales teams. He led by example and people followed his lead.

Expect Accountability

I would describe my Dad as being firm but fair. He has high expectations of himself, his peers and team members. Even though Dad was a tough manager, he was upfront about each person being accountable and how they were expected to perform at the highest level. If expectations weren’t met, the feedback wasn’t held for a review, but rather addressed in real time. This put the onus on the individual vs. the leader or company being “the bad guy”.

Have a Few Rules and Repeat Them Often

Dad’s three primary rules were all about people:

  1. Hire great people
  2. Take care of your people
  3. Serve the customer

If you do those three things well, the business objectives of growing assets and delivering profit dollars were much easier. They are inherently simple rules on paper, yet it takes a huge amount of focus to consistently execute them successfully.