Leadership Lessons From a Funeral Director

by Joe McKeever

His name is Louis Muhleisen and he runs two family-owned funeral parlors, one down the street from our church and the other a few miles away in Metairie. He is one of the nicest people I know and as sharp a funeral director as I've ever worked with.

One morning last week we had a service at our church for a veteran Marine who was buried that afternoon at the Biloxi National Cemetery two hours away on the Mississippi coast. Louis Muhleisen led a caravan of perhaps a dozen cars from the church to the cemetery.

Now, I've been in hundreds of funeral processions over these forty years of ministry, but never one for two solid hours on the Interstate. With traffic whizzing in and around us, our faithful leader kept us on course and we arrived right on schedule. Along the way, it occurred to me that Louis was demonstrating some vital lessons in leadership.

  1. A leader knows where he's going. I would not be surprised if Louis had not driven over to Biloxi the day before just to be sure where he was to take us. He believes in preparation. That's rather basic stuff, I know, but you would be amazed how many people in leadership positions draw a blank when they are asked, "Where are you going with this organization?"
  2. A leader anticipates change. For no apparent reason, Louis would move the caravan over into the middle lane. Then, a half mile up the road, the lane we were in played out.
  3. A leader keeps his mind on the job. For two solid hours on the freeway, Louis watched the road ahead while he kept his eye on the rear-view mirror to make certain everyone was still with him. Those who have never done this have no idea how demanding it can be. We pastors joke about the fellow who forgot he was leading a funeral procession and turned into the Wal-Mart parking lot. He drove up and down the lanes looking for a parking space before noticing in his mirror the long string of headlights behind him. It's a scary thought!
  4. A leader gives special attention to the weakest member of the group. When one straggles, all those behind him are affected. So, the leader watches to make sure that all the cars cleared that last traffic light and that no one is lagging too far behind.
  5. A leader practices redundancy. Just before we left the church, Louis walked back to each driver and told where we were going and how we would be getting there. He gave each one his cell phone number. He was determined that everyone would get to the destination. We all did.
  6. A leader asks for help when he needs it. No one can know everything. As we entered the cemetery, Louis stopped and asked for directions, then drove to the exact spot.
  7. A leader wears a black suit and drives a long white Cadillac. Well, maybe not all of them do, but Louis does and it works for him. I've got the suit; now if I can just find a white Caddy.

Dr. McKeever pastors First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana