This weekend I had the honor of teaching leadership at The Gloucester Institute Emerging Leaders Program entitled. A Brand Called You.
This program assembles approximately thirty highly motivated African-American undergraduate students with excellent leadership potential. Over the course of the year, they are trained in leadership, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills.
On a Saturday afternoon, when most undergraduates are at a football game, this group of leaders was in a hotel conference room eager to learn how to be an extraordinary leader. We talked about the characteristics of the extraordinary leader – clarity of purpose, commitment to firm principles, dedication to the people they served – adding up to remarkable impact and legacy.
One astute student asked me this question:
Would these leadership characteristics work in any industry or are there some industries where they would fail? For example, would they work in the fashion or entertainment industries?
My answer: “Oh yes. These characteristics of leadership will work in any field. But if you choose to lead with purpose, principles, and a heart of service, you will be considered odd by those around you.”
Extraordinary leaders are few and far between, no matter what the industry. Today most of the celebrated leaders are what I call the Power Trip Leader. They are determined – determined to get powerful and rich.
In contrast, the Servant Leader is equally bold and ambitious, for the people and the enterprise they serve, not for themselves. These are the leaders with committed and passionate followers. These are the leaders that leave legacies by developing the next generation of leaders.
At the end of my teaching session, I had the privilege of meeting the Founder and President of The Gloucester Institute, the Honorable Kay Coles James. After an impressive career in business, education and government, today Kay James has committed her life to developing the next generation of African-American purpose-driven, principled leaders.
Kay James teaches skills like writing and speaking. She exposes the students to fine dining and the arts. She helps them with dressing for success. She teaches them the value of a commitment to marriage. She shares her faith. Her purpose is to leave a legacy of extraordinary leaders. And she is quietly doing just that.
Extraordinary leaders are so rare, we consider them odd. May there be more odd and extraordinary leaders.