Honoring the Spirit

Karalee and I were driving from Sechelt to Gibsons on BC’s sunshine coast to catch the noon ferry back to the mainland. The day before we had celebrated our 34th anniversary and were happy after having had a four-day mini break together away from the busyness of regular life.

My mobile rang this April morning and I answered it on the car speakerphone. It was a reporter from the National Post newspaper. He asked if I heard the news and with a sinking heart I said that we hadn’t. He then told us that our good sailing buddy John Ridsdel had been murdered by beheading by the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who had kidnapped John and four others off the docks of a marina in the Southern Philippines September 21, 2015.

20020821.john.ridsdel02We had no comment for the reporter, as we had promised John’s sister and daughters that we wouldn’t publicly comment on the kidnapping. We knew things were on a knife edge as Abu Sayyaf had issued two deadlines saying they would kill their Canadian hostages if a $6M ransom wasn’t paid. This was the day of the second deadline. The terrorists followed through on their threat and our friend was the one that paid the ultimate price.

Few of us ever experience such brutality and finality of life. Each of us does go through life events, disease, and death of those that we love and are close to. What leadership lessons have I learned from John’s death about how we respond when such events occur?

First, we must look after ourselves. Our reaction to such events are unpredictable. It is truly a time to take it from moment to moment. Sometimes being busy helps us move through the process and sometimes we need to be alone and quiet. Be sensitive and understanding of where you are. Share often and surround yourself with people who are compassionate and supporting about what you are going through.

Second, we need to be there for those impacted by these events. This is especially true where we lead others in business. All too often expectations are that we act as if nothing has happened. When I have had a first report go through a major life event, I check in with them even more, and give them the time off they need to deal with what is going on. You can try and chain a person to a desk, but if their heart and mind is with their loved ones, neither they nor the organization will benefit from them being there.

Last fall, I took a photography workshop on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to stretch my creative edges. This was shortly after John had been kidnapped. I shot the Currituck Beach Lighthouse at dusk calling the shot “Beacon of Hope.” I sent it to John’s sister and daughters for all of us to hang on to as we hoped for John’s release. John is now just a spirit, but each of us has the opportunity to be our own beacon of hope to those we lead at times when they have to deal with a life changing event in their lives. Karalee and I continue to lead by example, as each of us goes through our own grieving process for John, we are there for other and for those of John’s family who are dealing with his loss.

May you honor your spirit and the spirits of those around you who need to deal with life on life’s terms today.


Currituck Beach Lighthouse

John Ridsdel

All photographs © David J. Greer. Permission is given to the Lead Change Group to use these photographs on the Lead Change Group web site and in all promotional media for the Lead Change Group.