Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Power of a Sacrificial Leader

In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich.
- Henry Ward Beecher

In his book, Life Lessons from the Game of Golf, Steve Riach shares a story about golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Considered by many to be the greatest golfer ever, Nicklaus won seventy tournaments. He finished in the top five of fifty-six Grand Slam championships and won each of those at least three times, including six Masters titles.

“What the record does not show,” writes Riach, “is the person Nicklaus says is most responsible for his success. It is not his coach, agent, or teaching pro. Rather, it is, according to Nicklaus, his wife Barbara.

Of Jack’s eighteen major championships, he figures Barbara “has meant at least fifteen’ to him. This is due, the golfing legend says, partly to her undying support, and also because she has been “99 percent responsible” for raising their kids.’

While Nicklaus became a household name in the realm of professional golf, it is his wife Barbara, “Momma Bear”, whom he credits for his success. Without the sacrifices she made, the world may have been denied the joys of knowing one of the greatest golfers of all time. If he was the golf legend, she was the pillar upon which he stood.

Napoleon Hill said, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” Jack and Barbara Nicklaus are fine examples of shared success and sacrificial leadership. So what are the characteristics of sacrificial leadership?

Sacrificial leaders bring out the best in others. “She’s made her life second to mine,” Jack told the Palm Beach Post. “She’s never said, ‘Jack we’re going to do this.’ She’ll always say, ‘We’ve got your schedule. We’ll do this. Then if we have time, we’ll do the other.’”

Leaders with this mentality are indispensable not just to their families, but to the organizations in which they serve. By allowing others to shine and succeed, they do so by laying aside their own desires or ambitions for the good of the team. When team members carry within themselves this attitude, everyone wins.

In his book, The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn writes, “Ultimately, the more valuable you are to others-the more value you create in your work or your interactions with others-the more value will eventually flow toward you. Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.”

During his legendary career, Barbara added value to Jack’s success. It’s when you add value to others around you that you realize that your success is linked to those whom you elevate.

Sacrificial leaders share the credit. Nicklaus readily acknowledges Barbara as the source of his success. Leaders are like that. They realize that no matter the degree of their personal success, they have others to thank for helping them attain their dream.

In The 360-Degree Leader, John Maxwell says, “It’s the truth that when you help someone bigger than you, it makes you part of something bigger. You cannot contribute to something significant without being changed. If you want to be better than you are, become part of something bigger than you are.”

An important principle comes into play when you understand the power of sacrificial leadership. Sacrifice begets success. When you sacrificially commit yourself to the success of others around you, it will one day be reciprocated.

More so than anyone else, Jack Nicklaus understood the sacrifices made by his wife Barbara. Her life is a testament to the principle that sacrifice begets success. For her exemplary example and lifetime support she was given the inaugural PGA First Lady of Golf Award in 1999.

The power of sacrificial leadership is realized when you understand that the key to your success is helping others succeed. For in the end, it is the sacrifice of one that makes for the success and joys of many.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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