Profiles in Leadership: Sophie Scholl

Profiles in Leadership: Sophie Scholl

Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided.
-Sophie Scholl

Scholl grew up in Nazi Germany where she began passively resisting the teaching and programs as early as 13-years-old and through a small group of friends eventually lead a passive resistance movement centered around the philosophy that was a counterpoint to the Nazi propaganda machine. She held true to her beliefs as she was eventually caught and executed for high treason at the age of 21. 

Sophie Scholl is a powerful example of integrity, accountability, and passion and she modeled several leadership characteristics that we can learn from today. 

She leaned into her talents to contribute to the right cause

Scholl was no warrior. Rather than trying to defect to the Allied side during WWII, she leaned into her talents to make an impact where she was. She and a small group of friends began a passive resistance movement against the Nazi regime by writing articles and distributing leaflets around central Germany and the local university. The group and publication became known as the White Rose and several publications were distributed during the summer of 1942

What difference can you make? It’s sometimes hard to see how we as individuals can impact large-scale issues like climate change, racism, and false narratives. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the enormity of the situation look at your skills and talents. What are you great at or love to do and how can you use that skill and passion to contribute in some way? 

The White Rose was a group of 5 kids and young adults who wrote, printed and distributed the material. During the spike in Black Lives Matter protests in the Spring of 2020, a high schooler in the Atlanta suburbs organized his own protests that saw hundreds of people unite from all walks of life. Don’t underestimate the level of impact that you can have on others.

She spoke up at a time that mattered

As time continues to separate the most current generation from at atrocities of the Nazis and the circumstances that led to WWII, people sometimes assume that the whole country backed the misguided values and mission of the Nazi leadership. That was certainly not the case. Sophie Scholl was one of many citizens in the country that voiced their concern and call to resist as the regime expanded across Europe. 

Groupthink is the way of making decisions that discourage individualization and creativity. It has destroyed organizations, toppled governments and in the age of social media, led to people taking up sides with groups that they never should have been a part of. 

Speak up to share your opinion in group meetings and gatherings. We conduct talent calibrations where leaders discuss their team with their peers and supervisor and talk about each individual’s performance and potential and we always learn new things about people in each session because we encourage everyone in the room to share their insight and dealings with the person currently being discussed. We can put up blinders when it comes to our people and as we lead strategically in both our personal and professional life. 

Be intentional to break up groupthink if you see it manifesting itself on your team and have the courage to step up and make your voice heard. 

She was brave and accountable

Sholl and the rest of the White Rose were arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich on February 18th, 1943. The group was making a run of dropping off the sixth leaflet through the main building on campus. They had a suitcase full of the printings and left stacks outside the classes so the students would find them after class was over. Sophie found a few remaining copies still in the suitcase and threw them from the top floor down into the atrium. This unplanned action was observed by the university maintenance man, who reported them to the Gestapo

They were arrested and taken into custody where the interrogator initially thought that Scholl was innocent. After her brother confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in order to protect the rest of the White Rose. The Gestapo moved quickly in the case. In just 4 days after the arrest, the group was put on trial, found guilty, and were executed by guillotine. 

Scholl could have easily denied her involvement and may have gotten away free, but instead, she took responsibility and it ultimately cost her her life. Accountability is not always about life and death consequences, but your integrity and word do hold value. What is your word worth to those around you? (EP 179)

Your team, family, and friends are counting on you to hold onto your integrity. If you believe in something, be willing to stand up for the idea or value during tough times. Instead of lashing out when standing up for your value and position, own your stance, and present it in a caring and empathetic way. 

A few interesting facts

  • The sixth leaflet that was being distributed when the White Rose was arrested, was smuggled out of Germany and made it back to the UK. They in turn mass-produced the document and airdropped it over Germany. 
  • The school where the White Rose was caught is called Ludwig Maximilians University and is still in existence. Today a memorial to the group sits outside the main building that they were caught at. 
  • Although not as widely known in the US, Scholl is much more recognized in Europe. Her legacy lives on in several films, literature, plays, and music. 
  • Sophie was one of six siblings. Her sister Elisabeth married Sophie’s long-term boyfriend after her execution and lived 100 years nearly to the day. She passed away on Feb 28, 2020.

Lean into your talent and passion to leverage your values to impact others. Follow your conscience as you break up group think, own your intentions, and embrace accountability for yourself and others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in leadership: Robert Baden-Powell

Profiles in leadership: Robert Baden-Powell

The real way to gain happiness is to give it to others. 
-Lord Robert Baden-Powell 

Robert Baden-Powell is the father of the scouting movement that eventually grew to be the largest and most significant youth movement of the 20th century. Millions of scouts owe at least some of their success to principles and lessons that they learned in the scouting program as a youth. 

While he turned out to be an inspiring leader, he started out just as many of us do, trying to find his place in leadership and the world. 

He chased his Calling only to find it somewhere else

Baden-Powell seemed to always be chasing his Calling as a young adult. He was a serviceman in the English Army, serving as a scout, spy, and several different leadership roles. He was also a prolific writer and wrote many books wrapped around hunting and military characters. Throughout most of Baden-Powell’s career he thought that if he had combat experience, he would be validated in his leadership. 

He got that experience in South Africa while his troops defended a small town of Mafeking from over 7000 Boers for 217 days and the age of 43. Baden-Powell finally got the acclimation and respect from his peers following the event, but it was the campaign itself that was the beginning of his true Calling. He found a passion for developing youth in Mafeking by creating the Mafeking Cadet Corps to take care of the smaller tasks around town. 

As you chase your own Calling (Ep 161) Be willing aware of the changing environment around you. What’s changed around you? How have you changed over the years? Do you have new passions or talents that you didn’t have several years ago?  Callings can change…and maybe you aren’t following your lasting Calling, but your Calling for now. Be willing to let go of or use the old to help move towards future growth and impact. 

He was a leader who thought about the future

During his last military assignment, Baden-Powell attended the annual Boys Bridge drill ceremony in Glasglow. Here William Smith, founder of the youth group, asked Baden-Powell to rewrite his book Aides for Scouting for a younger audience. This spurred him to publish articles and magazines about the topic and he hosted the first scouting campout. He was truly inspired to help future generations develop their character and skill to become great citizens and leaders. 

Time has a way of tempting us to focus on the here and now and not worry about the future. Let the future worry about itself! That train of thought and behavior costs people relationships, careers, and happiness among other things. As a society, we are currently dealing with the impact of climate change, inflation, and debt loads in part because of past generations.  Clean up the past and pave a way for the future. 

  • Understand what’s important to those around you and help support them in turning their dreams and goals into a reality. Leverage your network, resources, and time to build up others to greatness. 
  • Always take care of your future self. Do something today that helps you when you wake up in the morning. I thank my past self all the time for taking care of me. I’ve also got to continue paying it forward as well. 
  • Slow down to reflect on what’s truly important today and what is just a distraction at the moment. We waste a lot of time and energy on things that simply won’t matter in a few years from now. Focus that energy on things that will carry you forward instead. 

His communication started from where the other person was

“See things from the boy’s point of view.” 

Baden-Powell was often quoted in his teaching about leading from the perspective of the boy. The program would only be successful when it met the youth where they were and instilled leadership and citizenship principles on their terms.  As he expanded the scouting program over the years to younger and older children, he was mindful to adapt the material to the child’s changing needs and wants as they grew up. 

“Can we not interpret our adult wisdom into the language of boyhood?”

Sometimes we have a tendency to start our communication from our point of view, but Baden-Powell knew that it was essential to start from the other person’s position and life stage in order to connect a message. How often from the other person’s perspective and work to guide and inform them instead of starting from a distant point and trying to pull the people to you?

Your success rate in communicating vision and change will increase as you think about your audience first and work from there in crafting your strategy and message. I doubt scouting would have taken off it was a bunch of formal meetings and lessons as opposed to learning activities, camping, and other outdoor adventures.

A few interesting facts

  • In 2019 Boy Scouts of America controversially began allowing girls to participate in the program. Powell himself was supportive of girls in scouting. Over 8,000 had joined in 1910. He later convinced his sister Agnes to organize their own movement. It was called the Girl Guides. 
  • In some countries in Asia, Scouting is an official institution and is run with firm military discipline, as opposed to the laid-back, volunteer-parent atmosphere seen in the US. While there are general understandings and shared values, how the program administered varies by country. 
  • Earning your Eagle Scout badge has its privileges. You get an automatic promotion in the military when you enlist in the US military, as well as special discounts, scholarships, and other benefits that follow you for the rest of your life. 
  • 11 of the 12 people that have walked on the moon were Eagle Scouts.

Continue to chase your purpose while building yourself and others towards the future and communicate in a way that connects with your audience. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Wilma Mankiller

Profiles in Leadership: Wilma Mankiller

We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we are going and get the job done
-Wilma Mankiller 

Wilma Mankiller was a leader that broke barriers for her people. She was elected as the first female Chief of the Cherokee people and brought Native Americans forward in infrastructure, representation with government officials, and funding to a group that desperately needed it. She started in very humble beginnings and later rose to impact generations. 

Finding and following her purpose

Wilma Mankiller and her family moved to San Francisco to escape the heavy drought that was going on in Oklahoma at the time and was looking for a fresh start. On Nov 20, 1969, 98 Native Americans occupied Alcatraz as a form of protest for land rights. Mankiller saw the event play out in her own city and it became clear that her purpose was to also serve Native Americans in improving their rights and healthcare.

Have you found your purpose in what you do? If not, look to others. Sometimes, just like in Mankiller’s story, it starts with someone else. Another encouragement from her story is that she didn’t discover her true purpose until she was married and had children. It’s ok if you are an adult and are still looking for that calling. Be diligent in your search don’t give up. 

Having a vision for others

Wilma Mankiller eventually moved back to Oklahoma where she became an activist for Native American rights and rose in the Cherokee Nation ranks. She became the first female Chief for the Cherokee People and set her sights on accomplishing her vision for her people. The tribal council grew its revenue to over $25 million and vastly enhanced the infrastructure in retail, healthcare, agriculture, and education. They also reached their goal of self-governance to minimize federal oversight. Much like other civil movements, there is still a significant amount of work to do today, but there is no doubt that Mankiller left a monumental impact on the Cherokee Nation in her lifetime.

It’s almost overwhelming to see all the projects and initiatives that started and were completed under Mankiller’s leadership. How did she get it all done? She led her people towards a unified vision with care and purpose. 

There is power in a great vision. It unites people that normally would not be together in a meaningful way. It gives people the why behind what they do. Do you have a vision for your future? Does the company you work for have a vision of where they are going? Make sure you (and others) have a vision to follow. 

Think of purpose as the fuel in your car. Vision is the GPS that tells you where you are going to go. 

You can lead from anywhere

Even though Wilma Mankiller made history during her time as chief, that wasn’t the only time she was a leader. She led others before and long after her terms of service. In fact, Mankiller continued on in teaching and authoring numerous books and working with public officials after her retirement and through bouts of fighting cancer. Her platform as Chief helped her get many things accomplished, but it was her leadership drive and tenacity that made her so influential.

It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mother of two, or a retired school teacher, you can impact others and your community right where you are. Sure a title helps with those that don’t know you, but your actions and beliefs speak so much louder than a name on a business card. Lead yourself and others well no matter your life stage or job title.

A few interesting facts

  • Wilma was known to make jokes about her last name. It’s an old Cherokee term for watchman or soldier.  
  • Mankiller’s grandfather received 160 acres of land in Oklahoma as the US forced the Cherokee nation to relocate to the area. She grew up in a house with no electricity, indoor plumbing or telephone service. 
  • During her time as Chief, Mankiller helped grow the Cherokee nation population from 55,000 to 156,000 in part by re-establishing connections with people groups across the country.

You can learn more about Wilma from the autobiography Mankiller: a Chief and her People as well as the documentary called Mankiller

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Joan of Arc

Profiles in Leadership: Joan of Arc

You say that you are my judge. I do not know if you are! But I tell you that you must take good care not to judge me wrongly, because you will put yourself in great danger.
-Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was an illiterate farm girl that grew up in the French countryside during the 100-year war between France and England. Through a divine revelation and bravery, she would go on to lead a nation’s army to its first victories in decades. She became a leader and beacon of hope that French soldiers rallied behind. Even though her time in the military was short she provided us with several examples in leadership for us to follow today.

Have tenacity

Joan was born into the 100-year war. It’s all that she knew. At thirteen, she said that she received a vision from God that told her to drive the English out of France. At sixteen, she asked for an escort to see the royal court and was basically laughed out. Joan later returned again to find two soldiers who would escort her. After correcting predicting a French win, she was allowed to banner with the French Army. Even then people tried to exclude her from war councils and meetings. She just kept showing up.

It would have been easy to turn back and go home after the first no. It would have been even easier to give up after all the nos that followed.  How tenacious are you in your mission and passion? Do you give up and call it a day, or re-focus and try again? It can be a difficult path to stay on especially after it goes on for months or years at a time. Keep at it. France won several major battles because a girl refused to accept no. What victories could be waiting behind your nos?

A different voice and example to follow

The French army had just begun to change its siege tactics as Joan of Arc entered the field. If you’ve lost for years, why keep doing the same thing? She led the armies to victory by taking a non-traditional approach to war strategy and battlefield maneuvers. She was the only leader not to actually fight with their soldiers. Joan carried her unique banner and would ride into battle and offered support, battlefield awareness, and aid to her fellow soldiers. She was so successful because she thought differently and was inspirational to those around her.

Make sure to include others in your plans and ideas. That different perspective could save the project or the company you are working at. If you are the new voice or the one with a different perspective you also have to be brave enough to voice that thought or no one will ever know until it’s too late. 

Stand by your convictions

Joan of Arc was captured during one of her battles and brought to trial by England. They loaded the affair with biased judges and clerics that set out theological traps to get her to unknowingly confess to any number of the 70 charges initially brought against her.  She never fell into the cleric’s traps. She also never gave up on her convictions that she was in the face of certain death. Joan was finally found guilty of heresy for taking up men’s clothing again. The reason she took on her armor in prison was to protect from harm from guards in the facility. She died a martyr and was burned to death at the age of nineteen.

Hopefully, you aren’t put in a situation where you have to choose between your morals and convictions or your life. You likely have been and will continue to be asked to compromise your convictions in leadership, business, and life. Stand your ground during those times, no matter the consequences.  It may not be easy, but compromise could have an even longer-lasting impact on you and others around you. 

A few interesting facts

  • She technically was neither Joan nor from Arc. She was known as Jeanette and grew up in Domrémy, a village in northeastern France. In those times last names were neither fixed nor widely used and her parents had different last names. 
  • The women’s popular “Bob” haircut originated from Joan of Arc. She cut her hair to match the paperboy style while she wore men’s armor in battle. Later a hair-stylist in Paris began cutting his clients’ hair this way as a tribute to her. This style became popular in the 20’s in the US during the silent film and flapper era. 
  • She was hotheaded. Imagine a peasant girl telling off royalty, yelling at commanders and insulting the people putting her on trial. 

Joan of Arc’s story is certainly tragic in the end but also inspirational. A 17-year-old girl inspired a winless army to reclaim much of their homeland all the while not entering into combat with anyone herself. It doesn’t matter where you start out in life, you too can impact your community and nation in a positive way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Winston Churchill

Profiles in Leadership: Winston Churchill

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
-Winston Churchill 

Winston Churchill is perhaps the greatest prime minister that ever lived. He led Britain through World War II and held his people against attacks from Germany. His roaring speeches and refusal to quit were inspiring to his countrymen and leaders all over the world. 

He simply refused to give up

Winston Churchill was famously stubborn when it came to giving up and it’s exactly what Britain needed at the start of World War II. A critical moment came on Sept 7, 1940. Germany began an 8 month and 5-day long bombing campaign on the country in an effort to get the Britans to surrender or at the very least to prepare the way for an invasion. Churchill refused to give up and instilled that sensibility in his people. Britsh countrymen got to the point that they talked about the level of bombings like the weather, “It’s looking extra Blitzy outside today.” Germany failed to break the country’s spirit and only fueled Britain’s intensity to stand for freedom.

Hopefully, you will not have to live through anything as harsh as near-daily bombings in your city or nation. People are much more resilient than they give themselves credit for. You can weather more than you think you can. It’s an underlying lesson that all military personnel is taught early on. Don’t give up. Even if your back is against the wall, fight with all that you have. Sometimes the mental and emotional battles can carry a heavier toll than a physical ones. Know that those battles can also be won as well. 

He knew how to connect a message

Churchill was also famous for his speeches. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” was his first speech as prime minister and it instantly connected with his opposition in politics and the people of the country. He utilized radio and in-person talks to encourage and rally The British so they would keep fighting and not give in to Germany. His speeches are among the most quoted in history. 

Churchill’s speeches were so successful because he knew how to connect with his audience. He had an equal understanding of what his people were going through (empathy) and what the most pressing issues were. He then simply connected those two pieces in his talks. 

Do you find yourself struggling with getting your message across to others? Stop and consider how you are connecting and what your message is.

  • Be sure to connect in a way that the person wants. A great message can be lost because it’s delivered in the wrong medium. Understand your team’s communication preferences (email, video etc)  It often takes delivering the message in several different ways to fully connect with everyone.
  • Gain a good understanding of your team’s position, perspective, struggles and strengths as you craft your message. The vernacular, tone and content should strike a cord with those that receive it. 

He stayed focused on the larger picture

Churchill famously hated communism. He never thought of working with the Soviets, much less aiding them. As soon as Germany invaded Russia, British supplies and tanks began being sent to Russia as aid. Churchill famously said, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” He understood the bigger picture and was willing to work across political differences for the larger good. 

It can be easy to write people off because we don’t get along with them. Maybe they are a jerk. maybe they have a different philosophy on leadership. Do what you can to maintain a working relationship with them at a minimum. You don’t know when that person’s talent could be essential in helping you meet a goal or deadline. Also, work to build a bridge with them by helping them as needed. 

A few interesting facts

  • Winston Churchill was an accomplished writer. He authored about 20 books and won a Nobel Prize in Literature.  
  • In addition to writing, Churchill was also a painter. He created around 500 pieces during his lifetime and received kind words about pieces from Pablo Picasso.  He had his first piece displayed in the Royal Academy under the pseudonym David Winter. Churchill also enjoyed landscaping and bricklaying.
  • Churchill gained instant fame from the story of his daring escape from a POW camp in South Africa.

Stay tough and inspire others to do the same during difficult times. You can pull through just about anything that is set before you. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Martin Luther King Jr.

Profiles in Leadership: Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King Jr. 

Few people have had an impact on American history like Martin Luthor King Jr. An incredibly smart man, Dr. King stood against racism, poverty, and war while leading others in an inspirational and non-violent way. He still inspires leaders and civil movements more than 50 years after his death. 

Answering hate with love

Martin Luther King Jr. became famous for his non-violent protests and responses to hate and prejudice. He was once nearly killed from a stabbing and then forgave the man while he was still in the hospital. He walked, talked, and showed protests, but never raised his hand against anyone who opposed him. 

In today’s age of anonymous internet browsing, people spread hate at a very high and loud rate. Groups have been emboldened to cross the line into the world and harass and intimidate others. It’s easy to answer hate with more hate. Dr. King knew this and realized that it would only solidify the other side’s prejudiced thoughts on the movement. Follow Dr. King’s example of showing love when others show hate. Sure, it’s desperately needed at the world and national scale, but it’s also needed in your daily interactions with those around you. 

Empathetic towards all

Dr. King was an incredibly empathetic leader. He understood the plight of African Americans living in the U.S. at the time even though he hadn’t lived through each of their hardships. He also showed care and empathy for other groups as well. He was a strong supporter of Native American Rights. He spoke at several Native American events and partnered with tribal leaders to help their own rights movements. Dr. King also used his empathy and thoughtfulness to connect with political leaders in a meaningful way. 

People can be quick to respond with a very strong opinion and often basing their info off of a headline without reading the story, and out-of-context quotes or other misrepresented information. Take time to get to know the other side. Understand their perspective from a personal level. Use that knowledge to help you form a well-rounded and empathetic response. You’ll win over more people, have a more central view on the issue, and will likely to be listened to as a result. 

Stay humble

Just before his death, Dr. King said that he didn’t want to have mention of any of his awards or honors at his funeral. He wanted to be known as someone who tried to help others. Did he enjoy the awards he received? Sure. We all enjoy being recognized and I’m sure it was an affirmation for him that the movement was heading in the right direction. Dr. King knew that his worth was not in awards and it held no value in who he was as a person. 

The awards and accolades that you receive are a good thing. It shows your impact on others and it’s a way for them to recognize your contribution and say thanks. Take the recognition with grace and avoid letting it become fuel for an ego. Stay grounded in your purpose in your job and your larger purpose in life. Dr. King knew that his legacy wouldn’t come from the hardware that he had received, but the impact that he left behind. 

A few interesting facts

  • MLK Jr. was actually born Michael King. His father was Micheal King as well and later his father changed both of their names in honor of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer. 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • He was arrested 29 times and assaulted 4 times during the civil rights movement. He was once arrested for going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.  

To learn more about Dr. King’s journey and the bigger picture of the Civil Rights Movement I would recommend a trip to a few places here in Atlanta. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a fantastic visit and will you an experience that will stay with you long after you leave. King’s final resting place, as well as his church and birth home,  are not far away and they are a worthwhile trip as well. 

Make a better tomorrow.