Strong leaders come from all walks of life but share some common traits, including honesty, humility, passion and compassion.
That's one of the main messages in a new coffee-table book, "Secrets of Success: North Carolina Values-Based Leadership." The book contains essays based on interviews with 35 prominent leaders including Richard Petty, Ann Goodnight, Erskine Bowles and former Gov. Jim Hunt.
Developed by the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center at N.C. State, the book will support programs and scholarships at the center, which opened in 2002.
"We wanted to provide another layer of inspiration for young people," said Mike Davis, director of the Shelton center. "We asked them to tell us about a moment when value-based leadership played a role in their lives."
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Shelton, a native of Speed, in Edgecombe County, an NCSU alumnus and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped select the people and contributed his own story in a preface.
Another common theme in the book: mentoring. Many cite someone who served as an important mentor when they were young, such as a parent, teacher or coach.
The book, from Ivy House Publishing Group in Raleigh, costs $49.95 and is available in local and online bookstores, or by contacting Ivy House at www.ivy housebooks.com or 800-948-2786.
Here are highlights from six essays:
Late women's head basketball coach, N.C. State
Leaders help others keep things in perspective.
"OK, so you won. But you have responsibilities, and you are accountable for things, and you will have to be sure that those things are taken care of. You can't lose focus and lose track. It is a great win, but that is not the only thing happening out here." Even when I won the gold medal in the Olympics in Seoul in 1988, as the clock was ticking down in that final game, a marquee was going around in my head that just said, "Count the towels."
CEO of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization
Over the years, I've heard some wonderful one-liners about leadership. But I find it to be something that you deal with every day. Just because you had a good day yesterday doesn't mean that you're going to have a good one today. ...
Leadership is something that God gives you. He gives you the insight and instincts to do the right thing. Leaders have to make those right decisions, not do what's most expedient or best for the moment, but do what is the best for the ministry, the business, the nation, and the world.
Executive director of NCGives
It was funny, but when Daddy passed away we found an old ledger book of his, and he'd written down everything he'd ever repaired. We laughed and said, "You know if he'd gotten paid for all this, we wouldn't have been poor."
But we weren't poor. We'd learned that giving is more important, and I think it shaped all of our lives. He had the great gift of leadership, not just the talent to fix things but to do it for the community. That's the major message that I received about leadership, and I've been able to connect it to my life along the way, working as a grass-roots leader with underrepresented communities.
David H. Murdock
Owner of Dole Food Co. and developer behind the
N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis
When asked about the leadership that led to the creation of the North Carolina Research Campus here in Kannapolis, I often refer to a belief of mine -- to do the impossible you must see the invisible. I love creativity; the mundane, even if it's nice, doesn't really interest me.
Most things that I want to do are impossible or would seem to be. So I'm always busy looking for the invisibility -- what might be, what can be, and then putting it all together. My definition of leadership, and this applies to the creation of the Research Campus, is that to lead you must be in front. You can't be a leader if you're walking behind other people. I always say, "I'm number one." And I don't mean that in an egotistical way, although some would think that it sounds that way. But if you are going to do something important and you're following, that's all you're doing, following someone who did something of value.
Former CEO of Murphy Family Farms
I think leaders need to have good self-esteem, to have confidence in themselves. We all like encouragement and compliments, but timing can be very important and we have to be able to know what's right, do it, and sometimes do it without a push or pat on the back. Like I said, I know my daddy loved me, but I don't ever remember him telling me that. Neither do I ever remember him finding a lot of good in what I was doing; there was never a lot to brag about.
Daddy died at the age of 70. He'd been sick for several years, and he still wanted to be in charge when he wasn't able, and we worked around that. Then on Father's Day, 1990, we were at the beach and Daddy was so weak that he could hardly get around. We'd just had a recent financial report from our business, and I took this report to him, and like I said, we'd never agreed on anything about how to run the business, and it seemed like we were always at odds.
So I had this very profitable report, and as it turned out, this was just several days before he died. He looked at that financial report and said, "Well, I guess somebody's doing something right."
PBS television talk show host
The desire to be a leader is important. But you have to have done something circumstantially in a life or in a competition that merits others saying, "I know where they are coming from and I believe in their authenticity."
Leadership isn't about marketing, salesmanship, or just because you can make a speech. The essence of a leader comes from many things, the content of a life, from experience, from the capacity to communicate the mission -- be it military, science, business, sports, or the arts. Leaders have to be able to lay out a plan to achieve victory. People who will be followed believe in themselves and are able to articulate what everybody's responsibility is and how this is all knit together as a part of the total mission. Those who follow must believe in that leader, and in the end, the result can be teamwork. ...
I've seen a whole range of leaders come to the table (interviews on "Charlie Rose"), people who have shown courage and have a commitment to human life. A number of military people define this. But leadership doesn't come with a single act of courage or a single sacrifice. While admirable, those who have exhibited this type of heroics may not have been looking at the entire voyage or seeing the big picture. I believe most great military leaders think about their troops and do everything that they can for them. They also have the courage to shoulder the burden, to take all responsibilities for their command.