My name is David Navarrete and I have been a licensed funeral director and embalmer for over 20 years. Throughout those years, I have progressed from being the guy who rose at 2:00 A.M. for that all important first call, to the leader charged with growing and building successful businesses and teams. I made mistakes along the way…especially early on in my management career. However, as I matured and grew in our business (and in my leadership roles), I learned from those mistakes. To my good fortune, I also had great leaders and mentors around me who instilled sound management principles, work ethic and business practices that allowed me to grow into an effective and confident leader.

Through my experience, I identified five definitive qualities that were essential in my progression to leadership in our death care industry. I learned some of these on my own and some were taught to me by various, influential mentors throughout the years. Obviously there are many more attributes to being a great leader, but below are the five that I feel are the most important to live and breathe each day in our leadership roles:


Passion is the backbone of being successful at anything. Without passion you are just doing a job for a paycheck. No great leader is doing a job for a paycheck. Great leaders are in their positions because they have immense passion for what they do and for the vision they have created within their teams. You as their leader must be able to take your passion and instill it into every level of your team…from the most senior team member to the newest greenhorn in the organization. When passion is rampant in your team and business, success is a natural by-product and will only fuel your team. Passion is the first trait in being great at anything, especially being a great leader!


As a great leader, you must have vision of where you want to go and how you will lead the team to get there. Vision is one of the most important and valuable qualities of being an effective leader. It took time for me to really, truly understand and get this, but now it is the biggest part of my leadership style. To be a visionary is to have the ability to inspire your teams to work towards a common goal and do this with shared, believed team vision. The way I achieved this was to have my teams each write their own Vision Statement. This included both personal and professional vision. Once this was completed, I took those statements and made them each their own “Vision Card” to carry with them, post on their wall, etc., whatever they needed to do for this Vision Statement to remain in their everyday line of vision. Then, we as a team read aloud those statements one by one (this can get quite emotional), until the entire team recited their Vision Statement to the team. We then created, as a team, one Team Vision Statement. We did this by taking parts of each team member’s vision statement and putting them together until we had formed a Team Vision Statement that everyone truly believed in and had a part in building. It was important that we did this as a team and that I didn’t just make one up and say, “Here it is, now use it and believe it.” That wouldn’t have worked at all!


When I think of courage, I think of bravery and willingness to be a risk taker. These two components work hand in hand in the development of true courage within a leadership position. Being brave, as a leader, is more than being able to make tough decisions. For me, it is being able to be comfortable with healthy confrontation and having conversations that will be difficult. It takes bravery and courage to take those risks that others sometimes won’t. Taking calculated risks for the benefit of your team and business is what will yield that extra 10% it requires to be the best!


This is a big one that most people often miss, quite honestly. Being a great leader is about more than making big decisions and getting the big office. Unfortunately, I myself made the mistake of believing this to be the case early on in my career. It takes maturity to realize that if you require hard work, passion and dedication from your team, they must see you work right alongside with them. I am not saying do their work for them, but do your part with them. Of course as the leader, you have other duties to build your brand and market reach and these are a big part of the job. Just don’t forget to work with your team from time to time to stay relevant and knowledgeable about the inner-workings of the business. This is imperative. It not only aids you in those big decisions but it builds trust and respect from your team as well, all needed to be a great leader.


I found this particular attribute to be the most rewarding. As a leader, when your business does well and is succeeding, you will receive credit by default, just because you are the person in charge. This is a perk of being the “Boss”. It never made sense to me why it would be right for me to take credit for the daily successes the team achieved. When you, as the leader, begin passing along the credit to the team and to the individuals within it, there will be a huge personal reward for you in itself. It is a great feeling! Seeing your team be recognized by your supervisors and knowing you did the right thing is incredible. These recognitions mean a great deal to the team and it truly builds trust and team morale like nothing else. Contrarily, when there is blame to go around, it is the leader who should step up and raise his or her hand to accept the blame. Even more than giving credit, this will solidify your place as the leader of your team like nothing else. It takes a confident and strong leader to practice accepting blame and giving credit.

These five attributes have been my outline for leadership for the last several years. I have witnessed teams going from good to great by being in-tune with what is necessary to truly be a great leader. I will always have room to grow, as we all do, but if I continue to practice these five principles, I have a great feeling about the future and the success that can be achieved as a team. Each of you has that same ability. Just go get it! FBA


David Navarrete is Senior Vice President of Funeral Home Gifts, Inc., the nation’s premier weaver and supplier of tapestry Tribute Blankets to death care providers throughout North America. Navarrete is a licensed funeral director and top producer whose 20 plus year career has included leadership and senior management positions with both corporate and privately held funeral home locations. He can be reached at his office at 682-323-4076 or by e-mail at [email protected]