Five Extraordinary Leaders

Post 4 by: Sherri K Baldwin

What makes a leader extraordinary?

Not the fact that they achieve results. Although they do achieve. Rather, extraordinary leaders know that they have a goal to meet, and they measure success by that performance goal, but also by how they get to those results.

Each of the following leaders achieved results and maintained their own unique code of ethics.

Truett Cathy – Code: Closed on Sundays.

For those familiar with the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, Truett Cathy needs no introduction. Credited for introducing the chicken sandwich concept to the quick-service industry, Truett was not content to let that accomplishment be his only legacy. Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, he expanded to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday — none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else—our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”

  • Quote from “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People” by S. Truett Cathy, published 2002.


Sam Walton – Code: Compassion & Service.

Walmart as we know it today evolved from Sam Walton’s goals for great value and great customer service. “Mr. Sam,” as he was known, believed in leadership through service. This belief that true leadership depends on willing service was the principle on which Walmart was built, and drove the decisions the company has made for the past 50 years. Sam’s competitors thought his idea that a successful business could be built around offering lower prices and great service would never work. As it turned out, the company’s success exceeded even Sam’s expectations.


Herb Kelleher – Code: People First.

Herb Kelleher, the Wild Turkey 101-drinking, chain-smoking founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines LUV 0.65% is now 84 and knows more about the airline industry than practically anyone else on the planet.

A former lawyer who famously created the business model for Southwest on the back of a (cocktail) napkin, Kelleher is one of those rare birds: an entrepreneur who managed to create a successful startup, then stuck around to build it into a huge corporation. When asked how he accomplished having the most successful airline to date, he replied, “Well, the people did it. I just stayed out of their way…We want to show them they’re important to us as who they are, as people…It’s not formulaic. The way I describe it is this huge mosaic that you’re always adding little pieces to make it work. And it’s not a job that you do for six months and then you just say, “Well, that’s behind us.” It’s something you do every day.”


Walt Disney – Code: Family entertainment.

Walt Disney was an American motion-picture and television producer and showman, famous as a pioneer of cartoon films and as the creator of Disneyland. When he was younger, his brother Roy got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwwerks, better known as Ub Iwerks. From there, Disney worked at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animation. Around this time, Disney began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation, and decided to open his own animation business. From the ad company, he recruited Fred Harman as his first employee. With Walt as the voice of Mickey, the cartoon was an instant sensation; Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney is a legend; a folk hero of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity was based upon the ideals which his name represents: imagination, optimism, creation, and self-made success in the American tradition. He brought us closer to the future, while telling us of the past, it is certain, that there will never be such as great a man, as Walt Disney. “Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”


Grace Murray Hopper – Code: Making your own way.

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

Grace Murray Hopper may have been ahead of her time. She certainly did things that were a little unusual for women of her day. She graduated from Vassar College in 1928 with a degree in math. She went on to get a masters and doctorate in math, too, from Yale. This wasn’t just rare for a woman: statistics show only 1,279 math PhDs were awarded between 1862 and 1934, the year Hopper received hers. Computer programmer Grace Hopper helped develop a compiler that was a precursor to the widely used COBOL language and became a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.

She made important advances in reducing errors by creating a program to translate programmer’s code to machine language. She and her staff developed Flow-matic, the first programming language to use English words. This was later incorporated into COBOL, the business programming language that brought computer use and data processing into the world of commerce. In 1966, Hopper approached retirement age and reluctantly retired from the navy. But not for long; she returned to active duty the following year and was exempted from the mandatory retirement age of 62. The navy promoted her to rear admiral, and she was still serving as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation when she died at age 85 in 1992.

She was also credited with the saying; “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

Contact LeadAdvantage for more on our leadership processes for your management teams and high performers that will lead to continued success! To think, to act, to take away something real…

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About Author:
sherri-baldwin-150x150Sherri Baldwin is Principal of LeadAdvantage, Inc., a leadership and team training and development company, and is a registered Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB). Sherri and her team use a unique blend of businessrelevant, engaging and high-energy approaches to create an environment where leaders are individually equipped to navigate successfully through their specific business challenges to achieve a desired objective.