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Saturday, October 1, 2022

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How Fathers Love & Lead: Q&A with Paul Gustavson

Every father leaves a legacy—his own personal mark—that touch the lives of those who come after him, beginning with his children and continuing for many generations to come. This legacy is written every day through his demonstrations of hard work and sacrifice, by his steady dedication and with bold acts of love.

We spoke with a local dad and business owner about loving through leadership from a father’s perspective, and what it means to “be a good ancestor.”

Paul Gustavson is co-founder and chief technical officer at SimVentions, Inc., a Fredericksburg-based technology firm that supports today’s military with innovative engineering solutions. He is also the author of three books, two of which are on the topic of leadership—“Breaking Average” and “Leaders Press On.” He’s the co-host of the Breaking Average podcast and an Old Dominion University graduate. He and his wife have with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.

 

Q: What is your definition of a leader?

Paul Gustavson: When I think of a leader, I think of someone who is willing to step up, take responsibility and effect change in way that adds value to others. It’s not that they are fearless or don’t experience doubt, but it’s that they are willing to be courageous despite the challenge. Leaders—the great ones—seem to have a vision beyond the present, and even beyond their resources.

Q: What are some similarities/differences in how you lead at work and how you lead at home?

The way one leads at home and at work should be very similar. It comes down to values. What you value at work is going to dictate how you lead at work. Likewise, what you value at home is going to dictate how you lead at home. My values today are five-fold:

  • Keep growing
  • Connect with others
  • Live courageously
  • Break average
  • Be Grateful

Parenting is the toughest leadership job I’ve ever had. It will test you, consume you, worry you, tire you and put you on your back, but it’s also the most rewarding and satisfying. The great thing about parental leadership is you learn to love your kids regardless of their choices and decisions. The easy thing about leading at work is you can learn to love your team unconditionally just like your family, the only difference is that your family is a greater legacy than your business will ever be.

The question we should ask ourselves as leaders is: “Am I going to be a good ancestor?” That question alone can help shape how you lead in both settings.

Q: “A Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren said, “The first job of leadership is to love people.” What are some ways fathers can effectively convey their love through their leadership?

As a dad, I’ve never been perfect. Like any parent, there are more times than I count where I may have been hangry, or responded in frustration, or gave a facial expression that was less than supportive, which I’d later regret. But the one thing I have learned to do that’s made all the difference is to simply ask for forgiveness—to admit when I screwed up. It’s hard to do that, but we’re all human.

The other thing is to understand the love languages of your children and your wife. Is it quality time, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, or simply a hug or fist bump?

Q: Not every man grew up with a positive fatherly role model from whom they could learn. What can you say to those dads who are struggling to grasp the concept that love and leadership are not mutually exclusive?

All dads struggle; we are all works in progress. Find someone to connect with—maybe another dad who’s been in your shoes.

Let calm be your default. It’s OK to feel the way you feel but learn to process those feelings in way that allows you to see the goodness in life and in them. Your children are a blessing. Look for the things that you are truly grateful for.

Cherish them while they are young because time has a way of stealing those precious moments.

But the best advice I can give you is to choose to be a person of faith. Trust through prayer and surrender. If you are doing your best, that’s all you can ask for. God has equipped you for the task.   You’re going to be GREAT!

Q: What kind of advice can you offer for the dad-to-be to get him off to a running parenting start?

One piece of additional advice I can offer you is to write your son or daughter a future letter. Imagine who they will be as they age. Write them a letter as if they are already born and older. What’s the message you want to convey to them? Shape their future by seeing them through the eyes of a visionary leader and dad. Think of them 6 days old, 6 months old, 6 years old, 16 years old and 60 years old. Who are they going to be?

Q: As a father, what inspires you to never give up on your kids?

My oldest son taught me the value of perseverance and the power of imagination. The doctors in white coats, who were smarter than my wife and I, told us after some grim medical diagnoses when he was young, that we should limit him, lower our expectations of what he could do and protect him from the chastisement that might happen from other kids his age.

But as a young boy, and now a 29-year-old man, my son had totally a different view. While others said why he shouldn’t and why he couldn’t, he asked, “Well, why not?” He showed me the power of living your dreams no matter what your diagnosis might be. I am continually reminded by him to never give up hope.

Visit www.breakingaverage.com for more information on Paul Gustavson’s books and podcasts.

Rhiannon Ellis
Rhiannon Ellis
Rhiannon Ellis is a freelance writer and author, a fitness instructor, and owner of Impact Fitness. She resides with her two children in her native Williamsburg and on their mini-farm in Charles City.

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