How do you define leadership? Some define it as the ability to influence others through trust that has been earned over time. Strong leaders know how to inspire their team to keep moving forward in spite of problem seekers who toss up one obstacle after the other. Others identify leaders as individuals with inner courage to stay true to his or her personal values. To do what is right even if it means making an unpopular choice. Accepting that going against the majority could mean losing friends or a seat in the inner circle. George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King are all examples of truly great leaders who lived and died for causes they were passionate about.
Life is replete with every day people who like these extraordinary individuals, somehow find a way to achieve the seemingly impossible. The Christian faith brims with individuals specially chosen by God to carry out a seemingly impossible mission. Each, at one point or another, asked God how such a thing could be done in the face of great adversity. God’s answer was always the same. He told them not to fear because He would be with them. To take nothing on the journey. His grace was sufficient. The Blessed Mother, the Apostles and the Saints obediently answered in faith and forever changed the world as a result.
And what about you and me? Do we have what it takes to lead?
Count on life to present us with difficult situations that will surely reveal what we are made of. We don’t have to be a politician or the CEO of a big company to face the true leader’s test. Tests of leadership come in all different types of situations. Take for example the typical office meeting. No one wants to be the first to weigh in on an important decision that has to be made. The boss chooses not to influence the group with his/her own view and waits to hear what the team thinks should be done. Silence hangs in the air as eyes dart around searching for the voice who will speak first. That gut feeling inside tells you what to do yet you aren’t sure to go with it because your colleagues might not agree. Do you speak up and pull the silence out of the air or do you take the safer route and wait until someone else makes the first move? Or perhaps your child is complaining about being picked on by a kid at school. Turns out that the bully’s father is the soccer coach for the team your child is trying to join. What would you do? Do you bring the issue up knowing full well that doing so could decrease your child’s chances of making the team?
Go with Your Gut
In times like these, true leaders listen to their heart – that inner guide leading them to do the right thing. Leadership means sacrifice and to be a strong leader, one must be ready to give up the security that comes with the status-quo. Choose your friends and advisers wisely. Keep your inner circle filled with individuals you can trust to give good objective advice and support. Washington had the loyalty of the trusted LaFayette. Always remember your family is your ultimate support system. They will be there to remind you of what really is important and what they know you value. George Burns had Gracie, Bogart had Bacall and Mork always could rely on Mindy’s candid advice.
Yes, the qualities of a leader are many. I hope that sharing my thoughts on some of the most important qualities needed to lead are helpful to you in some way. Courage, Confidence, Faith, Trusted Friends, Ability to Listen to Your Own Voice – and a Vision.
Let me know what resonates with you when it comes to leadership.
Who do you admire today?
What is it about them that makes them a leader?
The other night I tuned into a documentary about the infamous “No Mas” fight between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Born on June 16, 1951, in El Chorrillo, Panama, Durán rose from poverty to become a world-renowned professional boxer. Known for his “Hands of Stone” punching power, he won world championships in four weight classes. Cutting right to the chase – the boxing world and fans turned their back on Duran after he refused to continue fighting after the 8th round in the title re-match against Leonard. Leonard was hungry to regain his Welterweight championship after losing it to Duran in the “Brawl in Montreal” fight in Olympic Stadium. Sugar Ray punished Duran by taunting him with every confidence diminishing tactic in the book. Only fair I guess because in the prior match, Duran had done the same to him. Now Duran would have to take his own medicine.
There are so many different views on what exactly happened to Duran. Why did he quit? How could he just decide not to go on with the whole world watching? Duran claimed to have been suffering from severe stomach cramps yet none of his corner coaches recall him ever complaining about cramps. Duran also claims that he never used the words “No Mas” to stop the fight. Whether he used the words or not, he still made the choice to stop fighting when fans everywhere were expecting him to take the fight to the finish. To this very day, Sugar Ray still has no peace in having re-gained his title from an opponent who decided “on his own” to call it quits. The media didn’t cover the victory the way Leonard had dreamed. Instead, Duran got all the attention – but not the kind that made Duran feel respected – but utterly ashamed. He had let the world down and the media labeled him as the biggest quitter ever to come into the game.
After hearing both sides, I can’t say that I support one over the other. Who knows, maybe Duran did throw in the towel on purpose to take his millions and go home as some accused. What I can say with absolute heart is that I feel for the guy because of what happened to him afterwards. He went into hiding after his house was pelted with rocks and family threatened. Fans openly revolted to show their disgust. The once loved boxer became a very lonely and isolated man. And as I watched how his life unraveled, I couldn’t help but wonder why he should be punished that way. Gone from every sports writer’s memory was Duran’s incredible history. How he powered up out of poverty, going from shining shoes to become one of the greatest fighters of all time. No one cared to remember his hands of stone. Duran re-entered the ring producing some incredible wins against formidable fighters like Davey Moore. He would not win his last fight against Leonard for the WBC Super Middleweight title. Even so, Duran would rebound and at age 49, Durán won a 12-round decision over Pat Lawlor to claim the Super Middleweight championship title.
I am sure of one thing. Duran would have changed his “No Mas” decision if he could do it all over again. Not because his decision was wrong for him – but because it wasn’t worth all the pain he would have to go through afterwards. No matter how hard he tried to regain the respect he once had, it was lost.
The inspired truth for today is my feeling that no person should ever have to endure the kind of punishment Duran endured for making such a difficult personal decision. For making a choice that was unexpected, unpopular and to most – unforgiveable. I wish Duran had more friends standing by him and his decision, right or wrong. The crowds that followed him through his victories had all but disappeared. No one likes a quitter. And they let him know that for sure.