Three weeks ago, we celebrated the Fourth of July. I am sure millions of Americans were celebrating with fireworks and barbecues across the nation. Some may have used the Fourth as a day to cool out from the summer heat.
I spent the day with friends and family. Most of the day, I reflected on the life of my brother Cherone L. Gunn, who, while serving in the United States Navy was killed by terrorists on the USS Cole on October 12, 2000.
I miss my brother greatly but I didn’t use this period of reflection to mourn. I instead, reflected on the leadership qualities I saw in him as a sailor in the United States Navy. Cherone embodied the traits of a great leader. So, I’d like to share three qualities of a great leader, using my brother’s life and service to our nation as an example.
- Initiative: A great leader doesn’t wait to be told what to do. A leader figures out what needs to be done and gets it done. A great leader recognizes that success doesn’t just happen you have make it happen. To make it happen you must do something. Cherone was full of initiative. He always stepped up and was never afraid of big assignments. There was no bigger assignment than stepping up to serve your country in the United States Navy.
- Commitment: You cannot be great if you cannot stay committed to greatness. Staying committed to greatness means doing what you said that you would do, long after the feeling under which you said you would do it, has left you. This quality of commitment is reinforced by knowing your purpose, leading with passion and maintaining persistence in the face of adversity. Like many, Cherone had his challenges while in boot camp but he was fully committed to overcoming them. After finishing basic training, he told me that he found his purpose and was excited about what the Navy was going to mean for his life. He was fully committed.
- Service: The highest quality of any great leader is recognizing that their job is to serve first and lead second. Service is having deep fulfillment in helping others achieve their goals and dreams even if it means your own goals become secondary. There is no greater demonstration of service than the oath Cherone took in January of 2000 to solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. His role was to serve the President of the United States and obey the orders of the officers appointed over him. His service means that we all can live free to celebrate and/or protest the complexity of our imperfect union.
As we reflect on our own traits of leadership, I hope you can find some way to take initiative, demonstrate commitment and be in service to others.
PS- If you enjoyed reading these qualities, you can read them and four others in my Huffington Post piece: What Terrorism Taught Me About Leadership: The Seven Qualities of Great Leaders