By Susan Lesh
This has been a difficult time for me, with the news of my father’s passing and my dear friend Peter Kelley’s passing coming within a week of each other. As I’ve mentioned before, I find the relating of stories of people who’ve passed, the memories shared with friends and family, to be very comforting. I’ve been reflecting on how my Dad and my friendship with Peter have affected me.
My Dad’s leadership style at home and in the church was a mix of autocratic control and hands-off approach. My most vivid memories of him as a leader were when I was a teenager. He was fun-loving and had a booming voice, but you knew where the line was at home and didn’t cross it. His line at the church, however, was further out than many of the older members perhaps liked. He was a great believer in allowing the younger generations a bit of room to discover who they were and advocated for space of their own in the church…they painted the walls black (gasp!). When looking at my leadership style, I feel that at times I tend toward that autocratic control. Having seen other leadership styles, particularly at Ethical however, has moderated that tendency.
Peter’s leadership style was quiet and always compassionately focused on people. I noticed that his interjected comments generally moved the conversation to a reflective place. Some of his questions were about having the Society become a more welcoming place, and some were about identifying people’s connections to the members of the Society. They were always about the people of Ethical. I remember him saying, “We are the Society, so if we want to do it, we should.”
We are a product of our experiences and I am glad to have been shaped by Dad and Peter.
Thank you: I wish to thank everyone for their love and support—their calls, cards, visits and well wishes—on the news of my father’s passing. I love and treasure my Ethical family.
Susan Lesh is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.