5 Things Leaders Do


The word usually conjures up high-power images of presidents, kings, government figures and military geniuses. It makes us think of the giants among us, those formed by the crucible of searing hardship or rising on the swell of extraordinary times that demand individuals of extraordinary character, intelligence, motivation, or courage. But great leaders come in all shapes and pervade all aspects of society. They are the spearheads of innovation, the hearts of ministries and movements, the instigators of reform, the engines of companies, the lifeblood of communities.

Leaders come in all sizes as well. There are world leaders but there are also small town leaders; there are well-known figures who lead nations and little-known college kids who lead Bible studies. It isn’t as much about the size or scope of endeavor as the attributes of the leaders themselves. Obviously, leadership is made up of a myriad of different aspects but let’s examine just five right now, as drawn from the words of five world influencers.

1.    Leaders Move People

Winston Churchill

British Prime Minister during World War II

It was a tense moment; the cabinet was pressuring Churchill to turn to Mussolini for help in negotiating a truce with Hitler. He knew that, because of circumstances, that would mean surrender. He desperately needed to turn the tide of public momentum and win over his cabinet. When he finished speaking the room was on its feet, in a standing ovation. By treating a cowering cabinet as heroes, Winston Churchill demonstrated that remarkable and crucial aspect of leadership: the ability to move people.

I am convinced that every man of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”

2.    Leaders Solve Problems

Gene Kranz

NASA Flight Director and Manager of Mission Control during Apollo 13

One of the most inspirational exhibitions of problem solving in the 20th century had to be the Herculean effort of NASA’s Mission Control Team, spearheaded by Gene Kranz, to bring home the astronauts on Apollo 13. Shouldering enormous responsibility with cool courage, Kranz demonstrated that for him and his team, failure was simply not an option.

You cannot operate in this room unless you believe that you are Superman, and whatever happens, you’re capable of solving the problem.” [Addressing NASA’s Mission Control team]

 3.    Leaders Think Differently

Steve Jobs

Innovator, Entrepreneur

He dropped out of college after 6 months and spent the next 18 months sleeping on the floor of his friends dorm rooms and taking whatever creative classes interested him. Fast forward a decade or two and he is recognized as a primary pioneer of the personal computer revolution. He has been referred to as a legendary, an innovator, an artist, a visionary, even the “father of the digital revolution.” From his [brief] college days to his career as an entreprenuer, it is obvious Steve Jobs was unafraid of thinking for himself, outside the standardized box of what is accepted by society. You may not agree with his choices or values, but there is no doubt about one thing: he was one of the “crazy ones” who see the world just a little bit differently.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

4.    Leaders Take Risks

Pablo Picasso

Painter, Sculptor, Inventor

Picasso is not only one of the most well-known figures of 20th-century art, but was also responsible for revolutionary developments in the plastic arts as well as in painting, sculpture, and ceramics. When all the world seemed enamored with academic realism, Picasso was the one developing analyitc and synthetic cubism. His myriad of accomplishments were only possible because of his willingness to experiment with different techniques and ideas and take incredible risks in the world of art.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

5.    Leaders Impart Vision

 Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Writer, Poet, Pioneering Aviator

Throughout his life, Antoine received several of the highest French literary awards as well as the U.S. National Book Award. His novella, The Little Prince, was translated into over 250 languages and his philosophical memoir was also internationally recognized. While Antoine was a fearless pioneer of early aviation, he is best remembered for his gift of influencing people with the power of words.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”