Leaders come from life or from books

Harriet Tubman leader

Harriet Tubman, an inspiring leader. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During the Community Manager Hangout tweetchat on Twitter today, a group of us discussed leadership with Les McKeown, an business growth expert and an author of several books about accelerating business growth. We talked about what a leader is, what qualities a leader should have and other related topics. I made the comments that a leader should be someone who is inspirational and humble, with compassion, wisdom, insight and integrity. Although the tweetchat concerned business leaders and what they need to do to create effective teams, it seemed like they share similar qualities to the leaders I admire the most.

My ideal real-life leaders are people like Charles “Sully” Sullenberger (the pilot in charge of the jet that had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River), Sir Ernest Shackleton (the Antarctic explorer) and Al Haynes (the captain of a crippled jet in Sioux City which crash-landed after it lost its hydraulic system). Haynes, when told he was cleared to land his crippled jet on any runway at the airport, even joked, “You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?”

Harriet Tubman and Mary Lindell are others. It was unbelievably difficult to get people out of slavery or German-occupied France during World War II, but they managed it.

It’s odd where leaders emerge from, isn’t it? The tweetchat reminded me of two books that feature an unlikely leader, William P. Kennedy’s Toy Soldiers and Piers Paul Reid’s Alive: The Stories of the Andes Survivors. In Toy Soldiers, terrorists take over a fictitious American boys’ school in Italy and hold the students hostage because the students are the sons of powerful politicians and industrialists. The troublemaker of the school, Billy Tepper, steps up and assumes leadership very successfully.

In Alive (a book concerning a true story from 1972), a jet carrying a rugby team from Uruguay crash-landed in the Andes Mountains and they had to resort to unusual measures to remain alive for two and a half months. Nando Parrado emerged as the leader of that group, eventually making his way with teammate Roberto Canessa across the Andes to let the world know of the survivors’ existence.

Being the leader is challenging for the leader in war, business or anywhere else. Knowing what to do, being able to lead others and inspire them to do their best to create success? It’s priceless. No wonder so many people and organizations seek out good leaders.

Blog readers, who are your favorite leaders?



Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Leaders come from life or from books

  1. I have the Shackleton book on a previous recommendation from you … and I hope I get to actually reading it soon. I have a list a mile long, but my eyes aren’t up to long reading sessions these days. Now I’ve added a couple more books 🙂

  2. There are quite a few leaders I admire, but none of them are well-known public figures. Most are successful, modest and fundamentally decent people who tend to put the mission and other people ahead of themselves.

  3. Roosevelt remains a favorite, both FDR and Teddy. Both did good things making the world a better place. Although he doesn’t get as much respect today, I still think Thomas Jefferson was a great man. Nelson Mandela was a great and good man. He understood how stupid revenge is for the greater good. Hard for me to name women leaders, they often did not get the recognition they deserve. Eleanor Roosevelt was a great woman in her own right, although somewhat obscured by her spouse.


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