What Great Leadership Looks Like

“We came into the world for the sake of others.”

Marcus Aurelius 

An episode of the latest Dr Who series was one of the most compelling pieces of drama I’ve seen for a long time. The blending of science fiction with historical reality not only created a compelling drama but also provided a real life insight on enduring issues such as racism, social mores and especially, leadership.

The episode centred upon Rosa Parks who, on December 1st, 1955 was arrested for refusing to give up her seat for white passengers in Montgomery, Alabama. 

At this time, black travellers were required to pay at the front of the bus, leave it, walk to the back of the vehicle and then re-enter. They also had to give up their seats for white customers if the bus started filling up.

This was allowed because of the segregation laws that were in place. Rosa's protest eventually led to racial segregation on buses ending - a decision that was met with opposition and violence.

It was also responsible for helping bring Martin Luther King to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

As a result of her protest, Rosa and her husband Raymond both lost their jobs. They left Montgomery and moved to Detroit where Rosa became a secretary and receptionist for a US politician. She and her husband joined the NAACP- a civil rights organisation which still exists today.

Whilst at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People she started working towards abolishing segregation and discrimination.

In 1996, Rosa was presented, by President Bill Clinton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a civilian by the United States Government.

All she did was not give up her seat in a bus, but this demanded unbelievable character, courage and an unwavering defiance of the consequences that would ensue. 

What have you identified recently as unfair, inconsistent with your own beliefs and values, and been downright wrong? 

Have you walked away when you should have stood your ground, remained silent when you should have spoken up and challenged constructively, or did you ‘refuse to give up your seat?’

Too often leadership is defined by what we do, and rightly so. But it can also be defined by what we omit to do.

If you consider yourself a leader in the fitness and healthcare industry, what have you stood up against recently?