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A dear friend of mine gave me a little book, and I do mean little, called, “The Pocket Power Book of Leadership” by Byrd Baggett. Occasionally I pick it up to review and contemplate one of the quotes. When I read this one, “Leaders solve today’s problems while looking at tomorrow’s opportunities,” I realized that there is no mention of the past. While the past can serve us from repeating mistakes made, most leaders have their sights on the future. They are focused on their vision and trying to make it come to fruition. So, it got me wondering about what great leaders do that sets them apart from other “average” leaders. While I’m sure that others will have a more extensive list, a few items really stood out to me.

  1. Great leaders are truly visionary. They are not only innovative and creative in getting their message across but can persuade others to climb on board as the leaders take them on an amazing journey.Just consider the movies. In “Remember the Titans,” we see the true story of Herman Boone (portrayed by Denzel Washington), an African-American coach who begins the racial integration process of a Virginia high school football team. He sees the advantages and competitive edge of a racially integrated team long before anyone else does, and long before it is possible.
  2. Great leaders often don’t want to lead – they simply do. Consider Martin Luther King, Jr. He has to be one of the most prolific leaders in history. While he remained reticent to take on the role ascribed to him as the leader of the civil rights movement, he did so, because he saw the need and realized that his vision of a more civil society in which people of color were able to gain equal rights under the law had to have a leader.Imagine the world without all the people who have made it possible for us to reach the moon and beyond. These are the leaders that we WANT to follow… that we NEED to follow.
  3. Great leaders don’t quit. Even when facing the most extreme adversity and opposition to their vision, they rally through, in complete belief and faith that what they are shooting for is not only attainable, but important, necessary, and helpful to an audience. When Robert Redford portrays a former Lieutenant General, Eugene Irwin, who has been sentenced to a military prison in “The Last Castle,” we the audience are treated to the perseverance of Irwin to change the treatment of all inmates. As the leader, Irwin mobilizes the inmates to rise against the commander of the prison, to challenge his authority and brings back a sense of order through his leadership style. It is through leadership skills of vision, motivation, and determination that he garners the support of the inmates, demonstrate the need, persuade others that the fight is worth it, and mobilize them to advance his cause… even to his death.

While I’m not espousing that any leader needs to die to be at their best, it seems that we are drawn over and over to movies that display inspirational leadership. We would like to see these qualities in ourselves and in our colleagues and managers. More often than not though, we need help to get there. Executive coaching is one way in which ordinary people seek out the extraordinary in themselves and grow to become great leaders. If you are someone who has these attributes, you may be the next great leader of our generation.