My father just turned 80. This was a big surprise to me! Not that it was his birthday… Nor really that he was 80… What surprised me was that at 80 he could be referred to as ‘elderly’!

Elderly? My father? The man I see out working on the farm most days? I don’t think so!

What I have learned from my father has shaped who I am and how I show up as a leader:

1. Create a legacy
When I was a teenager, Dad told me ‘It is a privilege to pay tax’. I thought he was stupid! I get it now… He was (and still is) very clever, but further education wasn’t an option as he was needed on the small family orchard. Together with his brother they have built a significant family enterprise, and Dad has always been proud to provide employment for many local people.

2. You are never too busy (or too old) to learn
Dad bought his first computer in the early 80s and at night taught himself to program. He developed systems that ran the cool stores and tracked fruit quality. He has never stopped learning.

3. Be persistent
Farming is not an easy endeavor – making the best business doesn’t prevent acts of nature wiping out the year’s income. Never have I seen my father give up – there is always a way forward.

4. Support your community
Like many people in the country, my father was in Jaycees and Rotary, and served on local boards. He has been on federal government advisory panels and recognised for his contribution to the apple industry. He has helped younger people get into farming and is always willing to support others.

5. Take risks and be bold
You don’t create the business my father has by playing it safe. Dad has always been willing to take calculated business risks

6. There is more to life than work
This one is an ‘anti-lesson’. Dad has worked hard all his life and forgone other things. My mum has missed out too because Dad was (and still is!) always working. When I began my business, my biggest and strongest commitment to myself was not to let it take over my life and make sure there was time for exploration and play.

And just in case you think I have a perfect father (or a rosy view), I don’t. My father is as gorgeously flawed as anyone else. He gets grumpy, regularly loses things, doesn’t like others to use his toys, and he NEVER shares his meal when we eat out!

Thank you, Dad, for all these leadership lessons and so much more. Happy 80th birthday. (And don’t let them say you are elderly!)

Go fearlessly


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