Leadership lessons by my grandmother

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They say that one can realize someone’s true virtue when the person is no longer around. There is a much truth in the saying. Losing my grandmother two months ago, made me think more about her legacy and influence she had on our family and myself.

She was a pillar of our family, always trying to keep everyone together. I guess women in general are especially talented for that.

Although she comes from a humble family background, her emphasis was definitely on importance of education, as she toughly promoted it. One of the anecdotes that always makes me laugh is the rule she introduced – a picture frame on a shelf was reserved only for those grandchildren with a university degree.  There were ten of us, and an honor place on a shelf was deserved by seven grandchildren, interestingly women only. She never made her piece that she was not able to go to a college. Her dream was to become a doctor, and although women coming from rural places rarely obtained a higher education degree at that time, she did manage to go to nursing school and work in the hospital for a several years. It was actually a huge accomplishment, and showed her persistence, which I believe inherited from her.

The period she was raised was quite hectic. Confronting World War II and Italian occupation of Dalmatian coast in Croatia, in the age of 12 she already had to join Partisans-National Liberation Army, at that time Europe’s most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement. I still remember her stories of torture during captivity by occupants and construction actions after the war, in which the whole country was obliged to participate in order to build devastated infrastructure from the scratch. Those though life experiences in such an early age made her grow into a strong person.

If you believe in Latin proverb Omen est nomen (name is a sign), meaning that the name reflects and assigns our personality, in the case of my grandmother is definitely the truth. Her name Slavka is Croatian translation of Latin word gloria, which means a glory. Her personality reflected strong will, ambition, hard work, recantation, generosity and modesty. These features of a character affected mine as well. I believe that my strength and ambition are coming from hers lessons.  One of the most important leadership lessons I learned from my grandmother are:

  1. Believe in yourself even when nobody else does
  2. Be ready to share your fortune with others, after all things are only things
  3. Life is tough, but you’re tougher

These lessons have imprinted in my memory, and later on modus operandi in my private and professional life. What I have learned as a leadership from her is to keep going no matter what, as step by step will take you to the destination. And, last but not the least during the journey keep your head up!