Leadership Stories


quiet leadership


Leadership. Here is a great example of quiet leadership, leading by example. This young woman doesn't actually know that she is a leader, though she is an example and admired by others. Calm, fairly confident of her skills, quiet, a careful listener, Hailey doesn't need recognition for her strengths. This is a case where validation of her skills and mentoring can turn her into a revered leader. These understated leaders don't stand out in a big way, but in a powerful manner.




Some are outgoing (charismatic leader), some quiet (lead by example), some stick with challenges and people (perseverance), some stand for fairness (integrity), and some are consistently focused on others (service).


Breana was one of her community’s top student musicians, then went away to college where she was a quiet leader, and now an influential leader in her new community and career. While Breana has had personal challenges and hardships, her daily operating procedure has consistently been to lift others up. She leads through service and example and is a proud member of the Karuk Tribe of northern California.

Breana has a deep passion for life and significant causes. What makes Breana an exceptional leader is the way she approaches her passions - in a respectful and educational manner; there is no hint of discriminatory superiority in a current climate that often displays public distrust and judgement. She is able to gather friends and lead discussions with respectful and loving strategies. Breana also knows that the making of music often helps to bring and keep people together.

Breana introduced an historical figure on social media in a way that brought Native American issues to the forefront in a gentle yet concise manner. She didn't shame anyone; she didn't pass judgement. She didn't need to. Her presentation helped us to understand a racial issue more clearly.

Here's to quiet leading by example. Here's to leading through service. Here's to Breana.

Of the five leadership attributes, service is perhaps the most important, and the most elusive, to recognize and mentor. Many noteworthy leaders, present and past, lead through service, assisting and helping where it is needed, innately seeing what is needed and valued. Often these leaders do not seek or obtain recognition for their service, but others follow their example.




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I have purposely avoided the most obvious of the five leadership traits - charisma - until now. Much leadership literature and research has centered around those who are gregarious and outgoing. An important part of my research and book centers around five faces of leadership (integrityquiet influenceperseverancecharismaservice), each of equal importance, but the world targets the charismatic personality as leadership material whether the charisma is positive or negative, if you know what I mean. When we think of charisma, we think of the impression, "Look at me and how great I am!"

And yet, the most effective charismatic leaders are anything but needy for attention. I had the opportunity to attend a family reunion. There were almost 90 people at this event that lasted three days. One person we met and had an opportunity to visit with was John, a 2nd cousin once removed. He has some impressive statistics, accomplishments, and education, but what drew me in was his charisma, his genuine outgoing interest in others, is generous attention to acts of kindness. He "worked the room", which was outside for the most part, talking with elderly and kids, young adults and people his parents' ages. Years before I remember attending a family reunion, watching people huddle into groups that were within their comfort level, and not getting to really know those people they didn't already have a connection with. John made sure this reunion was different. He and his wife exuded a love for life and a passion for learning. He made everyone feel special and important. He was fun and gregarious without being egotistical or self-centered. Do I know his goals and pathways for his life? No. Do I know that he is growing as an effective leader and mentor? Yes.

Take time to go to his Drone One Media on Facebook or Instagram (droneonemedia) to see some of John's work - and get infected by his example of charisma as a positive attribute of leadership.




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According to Cal Ripken, Jr., former standout baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles and motivational author: when you love what you do and have a strong will to succeed, you can often overcome multiple challenges with the courage of your convictions.  Perseverance is a critical leadership quality that creates inspirational leaders in unlikely candidates.  Meet Stephen, a bright and creative risk-taker.  Animated, passionate, and a bit unorthodox, Stephen is absolutely not afraid to fail.  In his challenges, he finds the answers and fixes. Though Stephen struggles with hyperactivity and anxiety, he is unwavering in his interest in environmentally sustainable designs. He is also intrigued with the physics of degree, angle, and distance in the sport of snowboarding.  Here is an example of a successful leader who takes failure as an important part of succeeding, learning from each problem and struggle.  Stephen's success is changing our world slowly and surely.




This is Robert, the man crouched down with a team of little girls.

I haven’t actually met him, but I watched him for almost two months. He coached my granddaughter’s softball team a few years ago, seven and eight year olds. This man is a good coach, not because his team won the championship, but because he does three things:

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  1. He teaches the skill of softball.

  2. He personalizes his instruction to each kid.

  3. He mentors leadership every moment of each game.

While the rest of us are using the “game lingo” (you got this, good swing, that’s OK, you’ll get it next time, good try), coach Robert is mentoring: Can you see the ball all the way to your bat? How many outs do we have? Where’s the play? Look at your feet — where do they need to be? Are you having fun? Let’s see a smile. Practice a level swing — there it is — now feel that as your eye stays on the ball. Are you backing up the first baseman?

I could go on. There is not a single instruction that is not personalized. There is not a single instruction that is discouraging. He took one player who struggled to make contact with the ball during the regular season and had her hitting by the tournament - with personalized instruction - and mentoring her leadership ability. Some of his kids are charismatic and outgoing. Some are quiet examples. Some have great integrity and some persevere and some show a tendency toward service to others. He helps each of them to find that leadership quality in herself and develop it.

Nobody ever talked about the scores during the games. He encouraged his players to encourage the other team and to encourage each other. One evening I had to smile when one of the kids yelled: “How many outs everyone! Where’s the play!” She took coach Robert’s leadership and made it her own.

On the last night of the championship round the coaches of the other team were frustrated for their kids, who were also very good players, and some of that frustration came out at our coach. He acted with kindness and integrity, a great example of sportsmanship for his girls to observe. And his gentle competitive spirit in this picture was not one of gloating over beating the other team by many points, but one of pride for the great strides that each of them made. When he put the “medal” around each girl’s neck, he personalized what they had done, as though each was his daughter.

Mentoring leadership. On the softball field with little girls. They will take what they learned into many other aspects of their lives. Thanks, coach Robert.




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Those who know me are aware of my passion for developing leadership in our students, regardless of age or personality type. I had an opportunity to be in a specific part of Arizona for over a month and saw a different kind of inspiring leadership. Lifelong learning is such a joy, a voyage into meaningfulness.

Most people hope to make a difference. We hope to leave some sort of positive impact on the world. Enjoying our own talents is enhanced when we can leave our world a better place than when we found it.

continuing to grow and learn

Oro Valley, Arizona is between Phoenix and Tucson. There are many communities within the valley, kind of like large subdivisions, each with its own clubhouse and various amenities. About 50,000 people in the valley, I had the opportunity to stay in Sun City’s Oro Valley. Each of these mini communities is basically an active retirement district. Talk about vivacious! The people I meet here are in the next step of their own journey to make a difference. They volunteer, work, create, innovate and are entrepreneurs during this twilight chapter of their lives. It's impressive.

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The golf course for Sun City is abuzz with all kinds of athleticism, some beginners, and many quite accomplished. The clubhouse restaurant serves a variety of healthy options on their menu in addition to the burger and a beer. Their arts and craft facilities allow anyone to continue pottery, painting, jewelry, sewing - or begin a craft they have always wanted to start. The pool and weight room is a combination of offshoots of Adonis as well as those committed to rehabilitative exercise. Then there is a gift shop: not souvenirs, but the result of the talent of the residents that live there: amazing crafts. Every piece that you purchase comes with the name and history of the artist or crafter of the piece. What rare and beautiful presentation, marketing, and organization of leadership!

preserving culture with the development of leadership

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Excellence By Design: A Visual History of Public Art in Oro Valley, Arizona is a publication of the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance. As you drive the roadways of the area, the fences, parks, islands between the roadway, and public buildings are filled with functional art. Sculptures that also serve as an animal sanctuary or art that also serves as a direction or information about the area. Take the learning tree at the public library. This is a beautiful outdoor bronze tree shading a book with inspirational quote by Dr. Seuss. In 1997 the town of Oro Valley established a mandate requiring developers of commercial projects to set aside one percent of a project's total construction budget for the creation of public art. With all of the research on how art, music, drama and dance enhance the quality of life for communities, Oro Valley is doing something about it.

leaders in all walks of life

While I watch my grandchildren developing their own leadership skills, I have also watched people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s in Oro Valley reinvent their leadership skills. If building leadership enhances success in life and higher achievement, how perfect that we mentor and encourage leadership in all walks of life.




Leadership takes on many faces.

The face of INTEGRITY

A collective group of people with various leadership abilities, working together, can do some pretty great things. Take music for example. I had the opportunity to judge the state music festival this past week in the state where I live.

This photo is the Malta High School flute choir. Malta, Montana is in the northern part of the state, with a population of slightly less than 2,000 people and a high school of around 200. There are 14 or so teachers at the high school.

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Erik is the band director. Like all stellar music instructors, he teaches many things to get to a quality music performance. Respect and kindness are two of those things that go hand in hand with technical music skills. Erik mentors his students from the first day of class as a beginning band student. Collaboration. Citizenship. Communication. Modeling the Way. Representing the Group.

Mentored well, ALL students can be leaders, from the most quiet to the gregarious! The Malta High School flute choir is a good example of blended leadership. I wish you could have heard them. Sensitive and accurate, their performance was a joy to hear. And that’s not all. You should have seen them communicate with their eyes, body language, and ears. Each student has different personality characteristics and musical strengths, but collectively they produce one fine product.

The story isn’t only about music, but music is one academic subject that can mentor respect, kindness, collaboration, communication. These students will eventually be parents, citizens, professionals, and members of our world society. Because of good mentoring on the part of people like Erik, they have now become mentors themselves! And these leadership skills are evident in things like a good music performance today. And changing the world tomorrow.



combined leadership skills


Doggone it, some people seem to have it all.  Charisma, Quiet Influence, Integrity, Perseverance, and Service.  Helen is one of those people.  She is organized, charming, honest, thorough, and reflective.  Perfect?  Of course not, but Helen knows how to read a situation and figure out what kind of leadership is required for the best possible outcome.  And she can lead, but she can also delegate others to lead when the situation calls for it.  Helen gained maturity in her undergrad years and traveling abroad, and saw inadequacies in herself as a process of growing and changing.  She addressed her own deficits and worked to change paucity in her surroundings.  Helen has a quiet charm, serves others, sticks with challenges, and has the capacity to be firm and honest with herself and those around her.  When we, as educators, find potential leadership in a student, we can feel confident in mentoring all areas of leadership.  After all, a few of our students have multiple talents as leaders.  Like Helen.




This is Kandace. At first glance, this woman is another pretty face. But she is a leader who makes a difference. We all have leadership qualities that we can develop.

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Kandace is a business professional, recognized for her organization, energy, and vision. She is also a good citizen, serving her community, family, and country in a variety of ways, from non-profit work to managing family needs, from developing ways to support the needs of her fellow man to promoting wellness through example. Kandace models the way for others by being honest, straight-forward, and kind. She collaborates with her team at work, her friends, and her community, not only with her vision and ideas, but by facilitating the success of others. She represents the various groups with whom she partners, insisting on fairness, and addressing issues for the good of the many. Finally, she communicates effectively, reaching out, asking pertinent questions and being transparent.

Congratulations to a leader who is making a difference in the world - in SO many ways. NOT just another pretty face.