Admired Leaders

Thoughts on an exercise to identify leaders I admire.

One of the first exercises in the leadership workbook is to identify 5 leaders I admire. I’m finding this difficult as I don’t think much about people that are in the usual leader categories: presidents and foreign leaders, military leaders, and business leaders. There are people that I’ve admired actions or decisions they’ve made, but I haven’t pursued them more extensively. It would be easier to look only at a single action, but I’ve read ahead and see that we have to think about the character and qualities of these people.

So my first list, penned one morning at a McDonald’s was this:

  1. Ronald Reagan (first election and president during college years; ‘won’ the cold war, seemed to see beyond party lines)
  2. Jesus Christ (a classic, meaningful and influential; not comfortable with following the “Jesus as a Business Leader’ path, but for relationships, a good choice)
  3. Bill Gates (I thought I needed an actual business leader and I like tech; unique in some sense by managing to stay in charge from dorm-room startup to international multi-billion dollar company)
  4. Cathy Family (Chick Fil A, probably Don, current CEO) (Another business choice; preservation of their family values in running the business in face of opposition (and lost profit), read some about the discussions related to the controversy and their efforts to learn and adjust)
  5. Martin Luther King, Jr (another classic, clear mission, unique solutions)

I then started thinking more about people I’ve served with or under and came up with a few more. I did limit myself to not mention people that I currently work with, because that could be weird and I think identifying strengths and weaknesses takes time. I think I’ll save them for another time.

I’ve also thought (and worried) about what this list says about me. One thought is that as a mathematician I connect more to ideas than the person generating the idea, so maybe it makes sense that I don’t really have a strongly identified set of admired leaders.  I think in the next phase where we look at characteristics of these leaders, I’ll hopefully see an admired list of values.