From my vantage point, the funeral industry is experiencing an era of significant change due to primarily outside influences; economics, shifts in consumer views about caring for our dead, and technology are among the top. These particular challenges mean that we are adapting to change outside our control and innovative/bold leadership is required to “fight the battles” ahead. The enemy (for sake of analogy) is the before mentioned influences; however do we have leaders in place to not only win the battles, but ultimately the war? The war may be characterized along a few fronts; remaining relevant to consumers (of value), financially stability (funeral homes, product manufacturers, etc.) along with the integration of technology which is essential for relevancy and financial stability.
I have written and posted about this subject Are You a Kiwi or an Eagle regarding leadership (or lack thereof) in the funeral industry. Because I am challenged daily as a leader from many “battle fronts” like: development/structure of new companies/brands which involve legal, accounting, capital investments, regulations (local, national and international), assembling teams, delegating, creating company cultures, personnel issues, marketing, websites, customer acquisition, retention and such; I study leaders, leadership styles and results.
A quote “most battle plans rarely survive the first shot” and there is some truth to this. Think about it, most of our doctrines and current operations are based on what we experienced in the past. An example was this past week’s attacks in Paris; the enemy now is successfully using new tactics, attacking not where we thought they would (a battlefield “over there”), and they successfully spread their message; every news media on the planet brought to our eyes all over the world exactly what they stood for. We are obviously unprepared for such attack and pitifully exposed that we are reactionary (the attacks were conducted as planned, lives were lost, the message of fear propagated). In the funeral industry, are we following old doctrine and not studying or training to defeat the “enemy” that may cause harm to us?
One of my favorite leaders in battle and war is George S. Patton; confident, decisive and “told it like it was.” Many did not like his bold personality and style of leadership; but few questioned the results (sound familiar?). General Patton once said “fixed fortifications are the stupidity of man” as a prognostication about the German Siegfried Line of fortresses for defense. This particular quote resonates with me because many in the funeral industry are hell-bent on continuing to build “fortifications of defense” in attempts to ward off the inevitable; consumers gravitating to cremation, declining traditional burial, economic downward spiral, and seeking alternative services outside our offerings, etc.
Another favorite quote from Patton: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” For the funeral industry as a whole, this frankly is an indictment. Yes, there are innovators and forward thinkers however many are still heading in the same direction they were 5 years ago. The same tired discussions continue; generally just bitching most of the time about the innovators, forward thinkers, vendors and always their competitor…yet rarely taking decisive action to initiate change.
If you took some time to dig a little deeper into and beyond General Patton’s brashness, you would find that he demanded accountability of himself and his subordinate leaders “Always do everything you ask of those you command.” Furthermore, he was not a tight-fisted leader, but actually wanted people to be innovative; “Never tell people how to do things…tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity” and “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” Patton demanded creative thinking and allowed for leadership of those that followed him. We need more of this from funeral home owners…unfortunately there are many, I think because of their own frailties, that don’t allow for “surprise of ingenuity” or “get amazed by results.” Dictatorial leadership is rarely successful and those subject to “serving the kingdom” cheer at the Dictators inevitable demise…sometimes assisting in their demise (funeral coup?).
Patton’s “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more” basically meant to train, stay on the move, innovate and attack; but don’t keep moving the sandbags around hoping you’ll win the battle. We have to be proactive as leaders and never satisfied that we have reached any sort of pinnacle, stay “on the attack.”
As for me, I’m going to continue to adapt and overcome as well as “shoot the donkeys” (unless of course I see the need for use as the US soldier did in the featured image). I detest having jackasses hold up an entire column of warriors ready to do battle; just shoot them, throw them over the side of the bridge, keep moving to fight the battle, and win the war. I’m laughing to myself because I know the jackasses will take umbrage to my school of thought, but as Patton also said “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” From the Command Post and through the cigar smoke; Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander