By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
At Turknett Leadership Group, we love to highlight exemplary leaders. So, what better way to ring in the new year than to showcase and reflect on Time Magazine’s (2022) Person of the Year, their short-list nominees, and look back on some of the most noted past winners.
Person of the Year
Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Time’s writer Edward Felsenthal, was “the most clear-cut in memory.” He goes on to say “Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, Volodymyr Zelensky galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades. In the weeks after Russian bombs began falling on Feb. 24, his decision not to flee Kyiv but to stay and rally support was fateful.” I would say that he is one of the few people, in recent history, who could bottle his spirit and cascade it to people around the world. We were and are all pulling for him. Perhaps this King David can actually slay his Goliath. When offered to help flee the capital, Zelensky’s response was “I need ammo and not a ride.” To me, that will go down in history as one of those most memorable and powerful words that could change the course of history. The sleeping giant, democracy, has been awakened by one man and one sentence.
Historically, Time’s list represents a treasure trove of leaders who have made an indelible mark on the world. Now as you likely know, historically, not all recipients were selected for the good that they did. There are villains like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeini. There are also innovators & adventurers like Charles Lindbergh, and there are several statesmen like Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), Mikhail Gorbachev, Mahatma Gandhi, and Winston Churchill. Elizabeth II and Corazon Aquino represent two of the distinguished women that DID get selected. There are also many US Presidents who were honored, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and even Richard Nixon! Roosevelt was the only person selected in three different years.
So, what are the common characteristics that most of these honorees share? I propose that they all influenced significant change. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the US out of the Great Depression and through WWII. MLK who, through his oratory skills, passion, and relentless drive, led the Civil Rights Movement ending segregation and helped America realize his ‘Dream’. Many of the honorees demonstrated confidence and courage. Mahatma Gandhi, Lech Walesa, and Mikhail Gorbachev took their own path and demonstrated humility and empathy, core traits of TLG’s Leadership Character Model.
Time’s 2022 Shortlist
The 2022 finalists were most certainly a diverse group if nothing else, all classified as change agents in their own right. Unfortunately, the similarities stop there. The 2022 finalists included billionaires growing their empires and billionaires giving them away. One group lit a small flame to light a revolution while another nominee clamped down on freedoms. And we have a body of leaders who have approved quantum change through a power that our government provides to them.
Wouldn’t it be great if Time always selected the good-doers?
Born to Lead?
Earlier in my career, while leading the Chicago YMCA, we started a program for 4th graders called Young Leaders. Each participating school was asked to select two people from their class to attend a weeklong training. We were clear to point out that we wanted administrators to pick the kids that other kids followed, not just the ones going down the righteous path. Of course, we felt like we could encourage all participants to use their talents for the greater good. Perhaps we helped forge a future Time’s nominee. One can hope!
Finally, I recently read an article regarding the past Time’s winners. They had a category called the “born leaders”. I had to pause and think about this – are there REALLY born leaders? And, to top it off, they listed the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, MLK, and Nelson Mandela in this category. None of these people were born leaders or born to lead. They all made their way in the world, suffering hardships and stumbling along the way, yet, each endured – ultimately making the world a better place.