Today I was thinking of all the mentors I’ve had the pleasure to learn from during my life. Typically, I think of my earliest career mentors: Ray Milkman at The Lazar Institute, Vicki Jaycox at the National Council of Senior Citizens and Richard Granat at the Center for Legal Studies and  the Institute for Paralegal Training.

Of course I also had great mentors during my 32 years running the Department of Continuing Legal Education a Georgetown Law. I think most often of the early deans with whom I served, Bob Pitofsky and Judy Areen.  There have also been newer deans and dozens of faculty members from whom I’ve gathered great lessons.

I was thinking about this aspect of leadership because yesterday marked the anniversary of my father Joe’s death. My father died of a heart attack on the golf course when he was only 55 years old and I was 19. In fact, I was waiting for him at the 18th hole that day to have lunch when someone I knew approached me and said, “Are you Larry Center? Son, I have some bad news for you.The worst kind of news. “

I regret that I never was able to develop an adult to adult relationship with my father. However, 54 years later, I still retain the early leadership lessons my father instilled in me. They remain fresh as the days they were imparted to me.

These are some of the leadership lessons I learned as a boy and a teenager from my dad:

-Always treat other people with dignity and respect, especially those people with whom you disagree

-Tell the truth, even when it’s hard, or else you will detract from your own self-respect

-Hold yourself to very high standards of behavior because other people will see you as a role model

-If you are willing to hold yourself to high standards of behavior, then you can hold your colleagues and teammates to those same standards

-Use your own leadership skills to get involved in your home community and give back to those people who have less than you do

-Pursue your hobbies and interests with a passion because they will help you achieve work life balance

-Maintain your sense of humor at all times because frequently it will save you from heartache

-Family is number one, so strive always to never put work ahead of family

-It’s never too early to think about your legacy at your work, in your family and among your friends

-Surround yourself with people who give you joy because we are all reflections of the people with whom we spend the most time

-Take leadership seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously

Joe Center died many years ago, but for me his leadership lessons live on.

Who were your earliest leadership mentors?

What did you learn from them?

Which of those lessons can you pass on to the next generation?