10 Leadership Lessons From Inspiring Leaders In History
“In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”
Sandra Day O’Connor
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Abraham Lincoln is most celebrated for his role in keeping the nation together during the Civil War and signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which helped to end slavery in the United States.
His leadership exemplified determination and is a reminder that great leaders must remain persistent, even when others do not believe in their vision.
As the first woman justice on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor served as the swing vote on a number of important cases for controversial issues like abortion, affirmative action, election law, sexual harassment, and the death penalty.
She serves as a powerful example for women in the legal profession and is a reminder that great leaders are not afraid to stand for justice, even when their peers do not agree with their beliefs.
Nelson Mandela was a visionary leader who believed that forgiveness was more important than revenge. As the first South African president elected in fully democratic elections, he saw his country move past an era of apartheid after serving almost 30 years in prison.
His commitment to justice and peace, even after being imprisoned for so many years, is a reminder that great leaders must often sacrifice their personal comfort to accomplish their goals.
As the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt helped redefine the role by participating in radio broadcasts, authoring a daily syndicated column, holding press conferences to discuss women’s issues and supporting civil rights policies and social-welfare programs.
Her ability to redefine expectations is a reminder that great leaders always look for opportunities to break the mold.
Rosa Parks, an active member of the civil rights movement, is best known for her act of refusal to give up her bus seat and comply with racists segregation policies. Her defiance helped to inspire the Montgomery bus boycott and propelled the civil rights movement.
Her willingness to stand her ground in the face of unfair laws is a reminder that great leaders do not allow their fear to overcome their purpose.
Oprah Winfrey overcame sexism and humble beginnings to build an empire from her TV show.
Her influence on culture by celebrating the success of others is a reminder that great leaders surround themselves with individuals who embody their values and are also striving for success.
A social activist and leader in the education sector, Geoffrey Canada has been committed to improving our education system for over 25 years.
His ability to challenge the outdated business model of public education and create new systems to reach urban students and their families is a reminder that great leaders challenge convention and push the boundaries of the comfortable.
As the singer of U2, Bono used his influence as an entertainer to raise global awareness of critical issues like AIDS and poverty. He persuaded global leaders to increase their support to the world’s poorest countries and enlisted the support of major corporations and brands through his ONE and (RED) campaigns.
His actions are a reminder that great leaders leverage their platform to raise awareness of important issues and reach individuals outside of their normal circle.
Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie distinguished herself by becoming a humanitarian and using her influence to give to others. She has used her global influence to bring attention to women's rights issues in war-torn countries and other humanitarian challenges.
Her ability to focus on how she can use her position of influence to give more to those in need is a reminder that great leaders give far more than they take.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, has a vision defined by his goals of transforming the way people purchase products, not simply to be an online merchant of books. His vision brought innovation into many fields like publishing, online commerce, and the aerospace industry.
Bezos’s ability to imagine a future is a reminder that great leaders believe in bold visions of the future.
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