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As Veterans Day 2023 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the leadership lessons I might have learned from my grandfather if he were alive today.

My grandfather, Sidney Farrell, is always at the front of my mind on Veterans Day.

Grandpa was a major figure in my life, as I lived only a few miles from him and my grandma (my Dad’s parents) starting at the age of 5.

Grandpa enlisted in the Navy in early 1942, right before the WWII Battle of Midway, leaving his wife and two young sons at home.

After attending Officer Training School at Columbia University, he was assigned to the Pacific Theater, where he was the XO of an LST (Landing Ship Tank). He saw action at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Saipan and Leyte.

He also trained as one of the first “frogmen”: deep sea demolitions experts, the precursor to today’s SEALS.

After returning home, he was stationed at the Rock Island Arsenal, and then assigned to another LST in the Korean War.

Although I’ve always known Grandpa was a veteran–my cousins and I would play dress-up in his Officer’s uniform–he was just Grandpa.

I remember him as a quiet and taciturn man, yet kind and loving. He loved playing jokes and would get a smirk on his face before busting into laughter. He loved animals (likely where I get that from) and his grandkids.

He was a father, grandfather, veteran, and later in life, a farmer.

I recognize now that he also was a leader.

Yes, by title–he was an Officer, after all. Also by demeanor.

When I reflect, I can imagine the quiet, serious, supportive leader he must have been for those under his command.

There are so many questions I wish I could ask him now: how he approached leadership, built rapport with his troops, and supported them in times of fear and loss.

Sadly, Grandpa died when I was in my late 20s. I wasn’t thinking about leadership then, and had no idea of the path I would take, of the questions I now wish I could have asked.

What I š—°š—®š—» do is recall the good man he was, what an incredible leader he must have been, and call on his spirit for support in the work I do with leaders.

A few months ago my husband and I went to Hawaii for the first time, and included a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri.

We also made a point to stop by the Royal Hawaiian hotel (shown). During the war, it was used as military housing, and Grandpa was billeted there in 1942, between Officer Training School and shipping out.

As I walked up the steps of the hotel, I got unexpectedly emotional, realizing that Grandpa had gone up and down those same steps over 80 years ago.

Lessons in Leadership on Veterans Day | 110 West Group | Cynthia Farrell

He was there to protect our nation, to protect the freedoms that allowed my visit in 2023, and to write these words today.

To my Grandpa in memorium, and to all veterans, today and all days: thank you for your commitment, your courage, and your sacrifice.

Hey there, Iā€™m Cynthia. Iā€™m a leadership team whispererexecutive coach, and speaker. I guide leadership teams in high-growth companies to achieve rapid growth in a healthy, sustainable way. I coach senior leaders to discover the path to lead with ease.

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