Are Great Leaders Synonymous With Success?
The conversation on the radio grabbed my attention. I was listening to a sports radio program and the two announcers were talking about the many coaches throughout various sports that they considered great coaches.
While they talked about the typical list of coaches who won championships, they started to mention other great coaches who won consistently but without any championships. Then, they mentioned more non-championship coaches who they considered great but did not achieve more success because of lack of support by franchises owners, unfortunate turns of events, and so forth.
The question that formed in my mind and lingered for me was “Does a leader have known success to be great?”
When we think of successful leaders, we typically picture top executives, visionary entrepreneurs, and charismatic personalities. Grouped with them are the championship coaches, the best-selling authors, and the prominent doctors.
But does fame, fortune, winning, and fans necessarily lead to a great leader? What about leaders who struggle or fail, but yet have a moment of greatness or sustained vision that impacted others in a profound way in the brief overlap of their time together.
Here are some traits and examples of great leaders that show one doesn’t have to have position, power, or prestige to make an positive impact in their world:
- The high school teacher who quietly sets a positive role model for her students and helps them pass with solid grades and, more importantly, solid life skills
- Two brothers who quietly took no salary to keep their textile business afloat and their staff employed for three years. Letting their staff know the company was struggling, they did not make it known they were forgoing their pay in order to keep families intact. When they finally did, it was just weeks before the company was saved due to landing a major contract that catapulted their market presence.
- The high school and college coaches who build character into their players and strive for academic as well as athletic success
- Samantha Smith, the young girl who wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1982 asking to understand what they were doing to avert war. The letter impressed the Russian leader to invite her family to visit the Kremlin. Her boldness made international news and her legacy lives on in spite of her and her family perishing in a charter plane crash 3 years later.
- The high school track coach who noticed a scoring error and notified the officials. This action took the state championship away from his team, but resulted in a huge outpouring of support that he stuck to his values and did the right thing.
- Scientist Alfred Nobel, who discovered the compound that make up dynamite, who later regretted the destructive nature of his creation and pursued more peaceful endeavors that led to his founding of the Nobel Peace Prize.
These leaders help us frame the mindset that you don’t have to have the brass ring in order to claim success or greatness. True success is measured in the attainment of your goals; if you set out to make others better, even if you don’t win a championship banner or make profits each quarter, then you are indeed a success. Greatness lies in the fact that people influenced by great leaders remember their character and their quiet deeds, and not necessarily their major achievements.
Don’t strive for success alone, you may get it but not leave the world any better. Instead, aim to make your world better and enjoy the success of helping others positively impact their world.