There's a paradox about family: you hear cautions about working with family while simultaneously hearing teams describing themselves as being "like a family."

Next week marks 2 years of the passing of my older brother.

My older brother, but also my employer for 8 years.

An employer to many, but also their older brother.

It would be wrong to call him a workaholic. There was no work/life balance in his mind. Just life. Just as you'd be his employee, coworker, colleague, you'd also be his friend - and being his friend meant you were his family.

He'd laugh at my (finally!) reluctant admission that having an older brother makes you lazy - especially an older brother as vibrant, energetic, and full of life as he. It makes you lazy because not only do you know you could never keep up, but because you also know with him around, you don't need to keep up.

When I was 6, my cool 17 year old brother would pick me up from my babysitter's to take me to the mall. He'd buy chocolate bars bigger than my face. Or we'd get a DQ banana split. Or we'd get sick on clearance cookies. To get to the mall we'd have to race to catch the bus.

"Leash", (as he'd call me) "Get ready for the turbo-boost."

I'd hold his hand tightly, and he'd start sprinting. Fast. My little legs couldn't do it. I'd make long bounds, and he covered all the steps in between. Like Neal Armstrong, his small steps made my giant leaps.

I didn't need to keep up, because he - holding my hand just as tightly - kept me up.

That relationship of ours wasn't unique. Hundreds of people know what it meant to get a call from him, to get a coffee with him, to be turbo-boosted by Sal.

For this past year, as our world, our lives, and how we work has shifted I've often found myself asking what my brother would be doing in these circumstances. How would he lead through this mess?

It's a question I'm having to consider without him because my turbo-boost is gone.

What I do know is this: after he passed, it wasn't employees, coworkers, or colleagues that showed up. It was friends. Brothers. Sisters. Siblings I'd made through him. For hours we shared story after story, collectively realizing the depths of our loss.

In trying to answer what he'd be doing right now, my mind goes back to the memories of trying to catch that bus again:

Life's not about the big leaps we take as individuals. It's about the small-steps we take to make the leaps of others possible. It's about whose hand we're holding. And how tight we're holding on.

It's asking and answering: Who needs a call? Who needs to be plucked out of the problem they're swamped within, and be taken for a coffee? Who needs some bubble-gum? Who needs a kick in the pants and be told they're being lazy? Who is up for splitting a chocolate bar? Who needs turbo-boosting?

Who needs a big brother? (The answer is we all do.)


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