Who are the best leaders you have known?

When I say leader, what images flash across your mind?

For me, the word conjures up quite a crowded room full of people, many of whom are so different from each other that they wouldn’t be very comfortable with my having gotten them together.

There’s George Patton (actually, George C. Scott as George Patton) standing in front of an enormous American flag and giving a stirring speech to troops about to go into battle.

Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are there; they’re are deeply involved in a discussion about the power of nonviolent resistance to effect social change. From time to time, they look nervously and warily over at George Scott/George Patton

Sojourner Truth, former slave and tireless crusader for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights, is there, ready to recite “Ain’t a Woman?” to whoever is willing to listen and even to the few who aren’t willing at all.

Marlene Holland, my junior high school social studies teacher is there, because no one before or since has led me as far into a realization of my potential as did she.

A few business leaders are there: Lee Iacocca, one of Detroit’s great car guys; Steven Jobs, founder of Apple Computers and an extraordinary designer and marketer; and Max DePree, retired chairman and CEO of the Herman Miller Company.

Robert Shaw, legendary choral and symphonic conductor, is there. Some great coaches are there: Dean Smith, Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, and Bobby Dodd (Georgia Tech actually won football games during the Dodd years!).

Ken Haag, my pastor when I was a boy, who shaped my understanding of what it means to be a pastor more than anyone else, is there—as are two pastors whom I never really knew except through their writings: Harry Emerson Fosdick and Carlyle Marney.

There are many others, of course, including a handful of political leaders: Lincoln, of course, and FDR and Winston Churchill.

When I think of leadership, those faces crowd into my mind, because they were able to inspire, motivate, and move people to be and do more than they would otherwise have been and done.

Whose faces do you see? Who are the most effective leaders you have known? What made them so effective? How have they influenced your view and practice of leadership?