Most great leaders have someone who inspires or inspired them. You may call these heroes, mentors, coaches, or any other name used to describe someone who has 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 would the world 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 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 would have fallen apart? Some may think it would be better. Others, me 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 WII?
Winston Churchill faced many similarly difficult situations as had 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 have stood 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 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 and historical pressures and force history down one and only one path. Both of these great individuals refused to allow anything but the right destiny 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 to 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.
Leaders 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 on 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 accomplishment, heroes help to keep our philosophies focused toward success in personal endeavors through whatever obstacles or hardship we may face.
Who are your heroes and why are they important to you?
Which Great Leaders Inspire You?
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