It’s not possible to talk about leadership profiles without highlighting George Washington. There simply wouldn’t be a United States of America without him. Over two hundred years after being hailed the father of his country, Washington is still considered by many the most remarkable American to ever live.
The purpose of the Leadership Profile series isn’t to point out all the heroic accomplishments of each leader. There are plenty of history books for that. The purpose is to highlight key actions each leader took that all of us can emulate. Some leaders have heroic moments that thrust them into the spotlight. Many more simply do the next right thing over a long period of time.
As the first president of the United States, George Washington was a hero in every sense of the word. But he started where you and I start: with challenging situations in the moment. Let’s take a look at some of the things that set Washington up for success.
One of the leadership questions I often hear is this: how can I be a leader when I’m so young?
I can’t think of a better example to share than this month’s leadership profile Malala Yousafzai.
I first heard of Malala when it was reported the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley had attempted to assassinate the then 15 year-old girl on her way home from school, shooting her in the face at point blank range in October, 2012. Her only “crime” was standing up and speaking out for the education rights of girls in the region. After an amazing recovery in Birmingham, England, Malala slowly but surely redoubled her efforts to speak out on behalf of education equality. Her book I Am Malala was released one year after her assassination attempt and she was the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala’s media story has yet to peak, but I believe there are several takeaways from a leadership front as well, particularly for young leaders. Here they are:
I first heard Jack Welch speak at the Leadercast Seminar in 2013. Even though he was over a decade into retirement and in his upper 70s, Welch’s rich enthusiasm for business and leadership took the audience (and the moderator) by storm. In raising General Electric’s value by over 4000% in his twenty years as CEO, Welch has to be considered one of the iconic American business men of the second half of the 20th century. What surprised me was how much fun he seemed to have in the process.
The greatest part of Welch’s contribution may be in the form of giving back – by sharing his knowledge of business and management with all sorts of audience and through various speaking engagements and books he’s written in his retirement. Here’s a snip-it of what I picked up.
Image by Joshua Zumbrun
On April 21, 2003, Carolyn Jessop finally followed through on a plot more daring than any you or I have likely faced. Under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night she herded her 8 children past several “sister wives” and into a van where they narrowly escaped the quasi-totalitarianism of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a polygamist group renounced by the Mormon Church) and her life as one of several abused wives to one of the group’s highest leaders.
Five short years later, she was called on by authorities as an expert in the initial custody process following the raid of the YFZ Ranch in Texas, which was being run by her ex-husband. The raid proved pivotal in landing the extremist sect’s leader Warren Jeffs in prison with a life sentence on multiple child sexual assault convictions.
I read Jessop’s New York Times bestseller Escape after it had just been released in 2007 as I was training for an overseas deployment to Iraq with the U.S. Army. I’m not sure what prompted me to read her story – or how I even heard about it – but I immediately thought she deserved to win some kind of Outstanding Person of the Year award and wished I could tell her as much. Jessop doesn’t lead a nation, a sports club or a Fortune 500 company, but she embodies some of the most important leadership attributes you or I could ever hope to learn.
What’s the craziest basketball shot you’ve ever made? Multiply that by 100 and you’ve got Cory Cotton, one of the members of the YouTube sensation Dude Perfect. Perhaps you’ve been mesmerized by their trick basketball shots from airplanes, water towers, football stadiums, trains or cars. Or perhaps you’ve seen their brand featured on ESPN, Yahoo! or various daytime or late night talk shows. The simple truth is that Dude Perfect has inspired millions of people with their crazy shots, enthusiasm, and Go Big philosophy.
But it wasn’t enough to just build a business based off crazy basketball shots. Cory Cotton took things a step further by putting the group’s contagious philosophy on basketball – and life – into a book: Go Big: Make Your Shot Count in the Connected World. In it, Cotton shares not only how the group capitalized on social media to become YouTube’s 3rd largest sports channel, but also how the average person can go big in their own life. Here are a handful of Cotton’s (and Dude Perfect’s) principles for going big:
You never should have heard about him. His story defies the odds. He was born into slavery, kidnapped by raiders as an infant, was not expected to live beyond 21 years of age because of his poor health and was a black scientist in the age of racial segregation. But after his death, the United States built the first national monument to honor someone other than a president. That someone was George Washington Carver.
In between, George Washington Carver accomplished incredible feats as a scientist, educator and inventor – and he raised the bar when it comes to leadership.
Here are a few of the leadership lessons we can take from George Washington Carver.
“The Filipino is worth dying for.” Those were among the final words spoken by “the greatest president the Philippines never had,” Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., including the night before he was assassinated on August 21, 1983.
There is no greater leadership impact than sacrificing for others. So far in this Leadership Profile series, we’ve looked at several thought leaders, a business leader and a football coach. They taught us how to think and to believe in ourselves. Today we’ll focus on a man who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of an entire nation.
Have you ever had a coach, teacher, or mentor in your formative years who pushed you to be more than you thought you could become on your own? If so, you’ll strongly appreciate this month’s leadership profile featuring my high school football coach, Dick Burton – even if you’ve never been an athlete.
I grew up in the midwest and didn’t get to experience a Chick-fil-A sandwich until I enrolled in college in Tennessee. Boy was I in for a surprise. Not only was the sandwich (and fresh squeezed lemonade!) amazing, but people were thoughtful and caring. My senior year, I was assigned to research how Chick-fil-A influenced people in positives ways. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to see if my team could interview the founder of the company, so I made a quick phone call. Believe it or not, Truett Cathy agreed.
What we learned on our trip still influences how I think about leadership. But for now, I’d like to share a few notes about the man who invented the original chicken sandwich.
In case you hadn’t heard, author and leadership guru Stephen Covey passed away last summer at age 79 from injuries suffered in a bicycling accident. Covey is perhaps best known for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. It’s the second-best book on leadership I’ve ever read (neck and neck with Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People).
There isn’t room to adequately capture Covey’s contributions in a single post, so I’d like to briefly share a bit from Covey’s first habit: Be Proactive. This is where effectiveness begins.
I don’t have too many claims to fame, but occasionally I like to tell people that I grew up in the same town as Dale Carnegie: Belton, MO. Ironically, I had to travel to the opposite side of the globe before I invested the time to read what I have since considered the greatest leadership book of all-time: Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’ve read through this book many times since then and even attended the Dale Carnegie capstone course which is over 100 years old. Therefore, I’d like to enthusiastically introduce you to one of my leadership heroes. I believe there is plenty we can all learn from the man who pioneered so much work in the area of personal leadership and influence.
I had the privilege of meeting the late Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) a couple years ago at a seminar in Richmond, VA. Zig’s words and ideas have impacted my life probably more than any other thought leader out there. It was truly one of the highlights of my year getting to meet the man who literally wrote the book on success. I realize not everyone has been acquainted with America’s “Master of Motivation,” so six weeks after his passing, I’d like to pay tribute to Zig Ziglar in my first leadership profile of the new year.
Both Zig Ziglar and I will see you at the top!