What I’ve Learned From My Favorite Leaders

Karen LeadershipI found a journal entry I wrote in May, 2010 on the topic of leadership.

“One thing I really believe to be foundational…I believe the best leaders do not have an agenda for power; they have an agenda to believe in something greater than themselves. To me, for someone to lead in that way says they are a person of hope, of assurance, of purpose. They are living. Alive! They are inclusive. Because to believe in something greater than one’s self requires people. And people matter. And people’s contributions matter. And people’s voices and input and partnership and gifts..matter. Everyone matters. Everyone truly, truly matters.”

That was five years ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned from some of my favorite leaders. What I’ve admired about them, and therefore long to emulate:

  • The best leaders choose kindness first.
  • The best leaders remain a learner always.
  • The best leaders are devoted to seeing what can’t be seen.
  • The best leaders are incapable of quitting even if they really want to.
  • The best leaders will curiously listen and engage with all ages, all cultures, and all walks of life.
  • The best leaders practice the principle of the “good faith handshake” regardless if others do or not. They will do what they say.
  • The best leaders are honest and pursue character and good repute as a lifestyle.
  • The best leaders offer the gift of mutual respect and human dignity.
  • The best leaders would rather risk failing than to not try and be left always wondering.
  • The best leaders will take responsibility rather than project blame.
  • The best leaders carry an inner confidence and a quiet humility.
  • The best leaders are not afraid to express their vulnerability.
  • The best leaders display on-going gratitude because they know that some of their success is simply “luck” – being in the right place at the right time.

I closed my journal entry with this comment:

And… I’ve also observed that the best leaders can be some of the loneliest people on this planet. They’ve accepted this as part of their journey. Albert Einstein shares his vulnerability when he writes, “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”

– Karen Thrall

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