Cooperative Leadership: Lessons Learned from my Dad

I’ve really diverged on this blog lately as the loss of my Dad has been preeminent in my life. I was thinking about how my Dad instilled cooperative leadership in me without knowing it. It’s warming to realize this now that he’s gone. If I ever finish my book on Cooperative Intelligence, I will dedicate it to him.

My Dad was comfortable and accepting of himself as a good person. He also had the gift of warmth that goes along with being cooperative, not just in business but in life. I have noticed that cooperative leadership emanates from people who are comfortable with themselves and who don’t have those psychological issues of trying to be “one-up” on others. They are deeply rooted with “take me as I am.”  People feel comfortable with this type of person: all personality types. People opened up to my Dad: they told them what was on their mind without his asking, although he often did ask how they were doing. He really wanted to know: it wasn’t just a nicety of speech.

This trait of cooperative leadership was why at work out of 10 lawyers, 90% of the calls were for my Dad right up until he retired in 1984. Just think how many fans he would have on his Facebook page today! Another trait he had which is extremely cooperative was to ask the other person if s/he realized the consequences of his action(s) or inaction! By then he had them emotionally hooked, as the consequences could be quite dire: that’s why they were calling him. A cooperative person acknowledges that the other person needs to take responsibility and own their actions.

A cooperative person looks out for the other guy. My Dad was all about that. He was so excellent at what he did and won numerous awards over the years, which he happily and graciously accepted, but didn’t bask in. As I prepared his eulogy, I had so many great examples of how Dad looked out for the other guy: ranging from pointing out to his houseboy and cook that he was too smart to be a cook and should go to college. This gentleman went on to become the youngest full professor at Nihon University, one of Tokyo’s prestigious universities, in the 1960s.  This friend, Masa, flew in from Tokyo to attend my Dad’s memorial service. Another dear friend told me that had it not been for Dad’s help, commendation and spurring him on, he would never have made it to the rank of a General in the US Army Reserves.

Our society seems to focus so much on ME, when it’s really all about how I can help others be who they can be, that gets ME to where I can be. We all have the gift of influencing each other in good ways throughout life, which I term as being cooperative, being open to noticing how we can help others.

As a 25-year competitive intelligence practitioner, I was a cooperative manager from the start, and found that people…once they realized I was for real…would provide me with some really valuable tidbits on the competition, the marketplace, new technology and regulatory trends, the major drivers in the telecommunications industry.

I hope you can take some time out during this Chanukah and Christmas season to think about how you’re going to help other people in the coming year. I am thinking about changing my profession to something more directly humanitarian than competitive intelligence, but realize that will take a few years to transition into. I would love to hear from you about what I should consider. I find I am attracted to health whether it’s the body or spirit.

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3 thoughts on “Cooperative Leadership: Lessons Learned from my Dad”

  1. Ellen,

    This was beyond touching and I see clearly where you get so many of your wonderful gifts for transparency and warmth and intelligence. Thank you for this–it is beautifully written and such a glowing tribute to a great man and a life well lived.

    Miss you guys,

    xx mel

  2. Ellen –

    Thank you so much for sharing your relationship with your Dad, the journey that you traveled together through his passing and the wisdom that you have received.

    It touched me and I am grateful that I have a relationship with my Dad which has become so valuable to me.

    I identify with and support and your journey…Happy Holidays.


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