I have been inspired recently to begin a new category for this blog. I trust that many of you readers (perhaps all three of you) enjoy the historical examples of leadership that we have been discussing - I know I certainly do. I thought it appropriate, and also very illustrative, to present a few leadership examples from contemporary observation, lest anyone think that all the good leaders are dead!
I would like to start with someone who I have had the distinct privilege of having as my business partner and friend for roughly fifteen years. I believe that I am in a position, perhaps exceeded by only his wife, to comment upon Orrin Woodward's particular leadership abilities in a way that nobody else can. I have had a front row seat for what has been so far, and promises to continue as, a thrilling journey. Orrin and I have built businesses together, written books, invested money, and seen the ups and downs of many aspects of leadership in our lives. Based on this experience, I make the following comments that I hope will help all students of leadership grow in their abilities. I could say many things, and tell many stories, and perhaps there will be an appropriate time in the future to expand upon this article (I have told Orrin many times that I have the rights to his authorized biography. Movie rights, too, by the way, so don't even think about it)! But for now, I want to begin with a few of the largest strengths of leadership I have seen consistently demonstrated (and increasingly so) by Orrin Woodwarrd over the years.
1. Courage - Orrin Woodward continually exemplifies this foundational quality of leadership. I have seen him attack issues head-on when, by far, the easiest and most expedient path would have been to do the opposite. Where many lesser leaders would likely turn a blind eye, flee, fix blame, or ignore issues or controversy, Orrin has consistently and continually charged right in. He has sat with accusers and conversed with them calmly. He has said difficult things to powerful people with dignity and grace, but courageously and unfalteringly at the same time. He has somehow mustered the courage to do what he believed was the right thing without calculation or regard for his own advantages.
2. Vision - It would be impossible for anyone associated with Orrin not to be able to repeat his vision of reaching a "million people" with the positive message of leadership development. It is a vision so compelling, and so consistent, and so needed, that thousands have bought into it. Orrin Woodward assaults the status quo in pursuit of a vision so compelling he can do nothing else.
3. Focus - in a world where distraction is the norm, where dilution of effort is taught as "diversification," and where focused intensity is called "fanaticism," Orrin focuses in on his objectives with laser-precision. He is not distracted by the trappings of success, by opportunities that present themselves as "good" but not great, as short term but not long term, and as compromises of his overall vision. If something doesn't fit the picture in his mind's eye of where he is determined to go, he pays it no credence.
4. Capacity for Personal Growth - As I make these comments, I hope sincerely that nobody gets the wrong impression. I am not deifying Orrin Woodward or making him out to be some kind of superior being. I am close enough to him to see his faults, as I'm entirely sure he sees mine! But I am continually impressed with his ability to identify an area he deems necessary for his personal growth, and then execute on the improvement. What was once a weakness becomes a strength. I could prove this with specifics, but since Orrin doesn't even know I'm beginning this series with him as subject matter, I am not sure how much liberty I should take with details. Let's suffice it to say that I have seen areas where I know for a fact that he was unhappy with himself, only later, perhaps years later, people comment on his ability in that exact area as though it is one of his natural strengths! This is true, and it is an inspiring example for all of us on leadership journeys that would like to improve some things about ourselves!
5. Relationships and being a "Good Finder" - Orrin Woodward is a master at building and maintaining relationships. This is because he cares, you can tell in moments once around him that he cares, and he makes no pretenses about who he is or what he is about. He will make incredibly warm, uplifting statements to you that somehow, deep down in your heart, you know to be correct. I personally find this very hard to do. I may be thinking something fantastic about you, your abilities, your talents, your achievements, but it is not natural for me to articulate it to your face. I'm more likely to send you a note later, if I do anything about it at all. But not Orrin. He will look you square in the eye and tell you something great about yourself that you know to be true, and you appreciate like crazy that someone took the time to notice.
There is a long term quality to his relationship abiltiy, too. We have clipped along together in all sorts of times and settings for a decade and a half and he has never let me down. Pretty incredible.
6. Honesty - Most of my dealings with Orrin have in one way or another involved money. I have probably been involved, in one way or another, in more financial transactions with him than anybody. He has always been entirely straight, searched relentlessly for "fair," and executed on all promises. We have never had a dispute of any kind over any sum of money in any transaction.
7. Passionate for Purpose - Orrin has always had a charge of destiny about him. He is open and passionate about his love for Christ, is concerned about the spiritual well-being of those around him, and is quick to remind people about the eternal picture of things. He is passionate about returning our nations to their founding truths, to spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to enlarging the influence of those who want to keep our societies open and free. In short, he is wholeheartedly committed to making a difference.
There is more I could say. A lot more. But I will stop for now and instead recommend that anyone interested get their hands on some Orrin Woodward CDs, read some of our books, and visit his very active and highly visited blog. Also, for any readers out there who have personally been helped or inspired by Orrin Woodward, I would invite you to add to this article by posting in the comment section below.
We have talked a lot on this site about leaders from history. I hope you have enjoyed hearing a little bit about my friend who is a leader that is making history!