Monthly Archives: August 2009

Leadership insights from The Water Boy and Three Cups of Tea

I love reading in the summer. A cup of coffee and a patio at my favorite coffee shop is the best place to let my mind wonder. As life is busy, I try my best to slow my thoughts down and I do that by reading. This summer I ran through two books I found equally enjoyable and insightful.BobbyAcklesWaterBoyThree cups of tea

The Water Boy is the story of Bobby Ackles. He started his career as a water boy and rose to the President of operations of the BC Lions Football Club and then went on to help build the Super Bowl winning Dallas Cowboys.

Three Cups of Tea, tells the story of Greg Mortenson. He was a mountain climber that through a failed climb discovered a passion for educating boys and girls in the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. His journey in this pursuit offers lesson and inspiration.

While both these men had much different paths they were both exceptional leaders. The definition of leadership I would use for both these men would be that they had many followers. These men raised expectations, provided extraordinary efforts, engendered great loyalty and had a tremendous impact on the communities they served.

Their demonstration of leadership in some ways is similar and in other ways very different. These books underlined to me that sustainable leadership has some basic core elements that cannot be removed and other characteristics that are determined by the situation.

The similarities:
The love factor: Both men cared for the people they worked with, those they served and those they worked for.
Humility: They exhibited a humility that allowed them to engage with all audiences. Everyone was important and all people had value. They were confident, but not in a way that reduced others.
Determination: Both experienced obstacles that for many would have been the end.

The differences:
A plan: Bob had a plan. He built a plan. He taught others how to plan. They had job descriptions, roles and responsibilities.
No plan: While I can assume Greg had tactical plans and  he definitely had a clear vision his organization remained informal and organic.

Their situation dictated the need for a unique leadership – most do.
So what situation should you lead people through?
Do you hold these core attributes that will make your leadership lasting?

Quotes:
Advice from Haji Ali, Greg’s mentor “Listen to the wind.”

Coming back to the Lions, Bob remembers “As a water boy, I wanted to be the assistant equipment manager. As assistant equipment manager I wanted to be the equipment manager. And so on. It was time for me to sit down and establish my goals for the Lions.”

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