As 2022 drew to a close I took note, as many did, of leaders who have died in the past year. Many news outlets called these ‘notable deaths.’ While lots of names stood out, some particularly made me sit up, for they were significant movers and shakers in their field. Here are six that got my attention.
In royalty: Queen Elizabeth II. In politics: Mikhail Gorbachov. In religion: Emeritus Pope Benedict VI. In sport: Pele. In fashion: Vivienne Westwood. In music: Jerry Lee Lewis. Of course there are many other names that could be added, but what struck me about these six, was that they all significantly shaped their area of influence. The world was changed due to their life and work. They were leaders. People of influence. And now their era has ended and the baton has been passed on.
While it’s interesting to consider the names of those leading in those fields today, I’m less concerned about who, and more interested in what, how and why? In our celebrity-driven culture, much of the media presents leadership as being all about personalities, but for most of us the leaders who we really admire are not normally those who’ve tried to make a name for themselves but those who’ve tried to serve others. That’s true when we look at the six names listed above. Of course we want leaders who are gifted, bringing creativity and innovation, but most of all we want our leaders to be people of character. We want leaders who care and listen. Who pray and serve. Who realise it’s not all about them. Isn’t that the kind of person you want to lead you – not just in your work-place, but in your church, and in your government?
When we die, most of us will never be named in the notable deaths of the year. And that’s fine, because being a leader isn’t about making a name for yourself. In fact it’s not about you at all, it’s about others. Helping them. Lifting them. Serving them. And leaving the world a better place.