Most great leaders have someone who inspires or inspires them. You may call these heroes, mentors, coaches, or any other name used to describe someone who has a direct influence on your personal and professional course.
For me, there are two individuals that have and continue to inspire me, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
I’ve often wondered what the world would look like if these two men had not risen to power in their perspective times and places.
To say they faced important issues is a severe understatement. These men faced world-changing, cataclysmic circumstances and challenges.
Great Leaders Inspire and Change the World
Consider Lincoln; what would the world look like if someone else had become president?
Lincoln did not even win the majority of states when he was elected. There were numerous other candidates running for president at the same time. He won more states than any other individual running against him and therefore became president.
Lincoln had political enemies, personal enemies, and southern enemies. In spite of all that Lincoln had to block his successful leadership, he persevered. As he put it, “A friend is someone who has the same enemies as you.”
Lincoln’s force of character, integrity, and leadership skills kept the nation together.
There were two driving forces in Lincoln’s life. First, he felt that slavery had to end. Second, Lincoln could not let the union come apart. Lincoln had friends that disagreed with him; politicians that would do almost anything to remove him from power; generals who didn’t want to follow him; and finally, enemies that would do anything to kill him.
At one point, the confederate army was within striking distance of the White House, yet Lincoln remained in control and decisive as a leader.
What would the world look like today if the union had fallen apart? Some may think it would be better. Others, myself included, feel it would be nothing like it is today. The United States has played an important part in shaping the world of today. Who would have helped the British and other allies defeat the Axis Powers in WWII?
Winston Churchill faced many similarly difficult situations as Lincoln.
He had many enemies of the same magnitude as Lincoln. Who would have lifted the British people to keep them stalwart in their indomitable spirit to never give in? In the midst of night after night of horrendous firebombing of the British people, Churchill found the resolve to keep them strong.
Churchill’s message in these dark times to his people and his enemies was that the British people would never give up.
What would the world look like if the British had lost the battle of Britain?
Who would have stopped the Axis Powers if the British would not stand in the gap and brought the blitzkrieg to a halt?
Tough times bring character to the surface, good or bad. Chamberlain, the prior Prime Minister, had sought peace with the enemies and thought he had achieved it, to his and the world’s dismay. Churchill had opposed Chamberlain’s approach to dealing with Hitler.
What would have happened if Chamberlain had stayed in power in Britain? Would they have fought and stood strong in the face of such an onslaught as did eventually engulf them?
Greatness Forcing History
What inspires me is not the greatness of these two men but their humanity.
Both were willing to stand in the face of unbelievable historical pressures and force history down one and only one path. Both of these great individuals refused to allow anything but the right destination to take place.
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” –Abraham Lincoln
Courage, it is often said, is not the absence of fear but a willingness to act in spite of fear.
Greatness, I believe, is the ability to stand for what is right regardless of the level of resistance and then take action in the midst of potentially negative consequences.
To me, Lincoln’s and Churchill’s greatness stems from their personal refusal to allow evil, as they saw it, to win.
Their unshaken belief in what they pursued led their nations to shape the future for all mankind. No one can question the importance of these two individuals to the world as we know it today.
Great Leaders Inspire and Push Through Unfavorable Situations
When overwhelmed and pressed on every side with few answers, you can look to these two men, or whomever your hero may be, and see how they pushed forward.
I often pick up and read one of the books I have on either Lincoln or Churchill to remind myself that leaders push on through unfavorable situations if they believe in what they have undertaken. More often than not, leadership is not the proverbial rose garden.
Sometimes leadership is nothing more than dogged perseverance through the mire presented before us.
There is an old adage that goes, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” I have a new one, “Pursue what you believe, and success will follow.”
Belief is the glue to hold your vision or mission together. Heroes inspire individuals to believe and push to achieve more.
Great leaders demonstrate that individuals can pursue great undertakings without compromising their ethical and moral ideals. Great leaders also teach us that the greater the goal, the more intense the resistance that will be encountered.
Lincoln and Churchill pressed through insurmountable and catastrophic obstacles to achieve success.
There is no empirical research that I know of to show just how many great leaders had personal heroes. However, we have often read or heard about how highly successful people did have someone or some situation that gave them inspiration.
Inspiration may have come from someone, something, or maybe a spiritual encounter, but something had focused them toward success.
There is nothing wrong with having heroes.
Heroes are part of the anchoring many of us need to stay on track.
Just as goals help to keep us focused on specific accomplishments, heroes help to keep our philosophies focused toward success in personal endeavors through whatever obstacles or hardships we may face.
Who are your heroes, and why are they important to you?
Which Great Leaders Inspire You?
If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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The most inspiring heros that I have come across is Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father and son team that have competed in triathlons together, even though Rick has a very servere case of cytic fibrosis. Dick”s determination, courage, and dedication to enabling his son to finish with him by alternately pulling and pushing his son Rick throughout the entire triathlon is very, very inspiring.
My most inspiring hero is Nelson Mandela. He pushed through unfavorable situations to save his people from the brutal regime. He had many enemies calling him terrorist in western capitals. He also had friends who praised him from the eastern capitals . Now both the enemies and friends praise him.
Maxwell Perkins is my editorial hero. For an in-depth look at why, read “Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg. Readers’ Digest version: he edited with humanity, and he worked diligently and disruptively within an established organization (Scribner’s was stuck in its ways when Max arrived on the scene) to celebrate the best voices of his time. Even as he became the go-to editor for the great authors of his era, his ego remained a proper size; he acknowledged his abilities and accepted work that put them to good use, without grabbing at glory for himself, always seeking before anything to nurture the writers in his care to their best work. I’ve found other heroes in different realms since, but Max remains closest to my heart.
Great responses and I see that there is such diverse group of individuals that have inspired each of us. How important to your life and career have these individuals been personally? My heroes have inspired me through some of the toughest times because I know they made it through theirs.
I, too, think Churchill’s no-nonsense leadership style is both inspiring and actionable. In following his exploits during the opening months of WWII and the blitz is especially instructive on persevering through tough times. Good stuff, Tim.
You’re right thanks Mike.
One of the person to whom i have been come across and without any fraction of second i stood there..and He is SRI AUROBINDO..He is the one who has prooved we all are potentially divine and as a human being our goal is to manifest the Divine..He talk about complete transformation of mental, vital and physical world..he had given a message that still evolution process is on going and now time come that we need to work out beyond mind…And in this evolution process mind will be our biggest strength as well as weakness…
His work is like ocean whoever dive in it will definately get pearl for himself..
This was great!! May be a good idea to present short synopsis on great leaders with their leadership style and the competencies they highlighted….