Character – A Greater Victory

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

This is a guest post by Dr. Jack King (@DrJackKing) of The Northfork Center for Servant Leadership. Jack has been a great friend and supporter on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Don’t miss this great post and video.

“It’s a great moment when someone has character to step up and do the right thing, at the right time.”
~Pam Knox, Head Coach, Western Oregon

We all know leadership when we see it. The problem for most of us is this: we expect leadership greatness to look something like a CEO, the Chairman of the Board, or the President. We have somehow come to a place where leadership is commensurate with graybeards waxing long on the wisdom of the ages.

You are invited to view a clip that’s proof positive leadership is anything but old people (mostly men) telling everyone else what to do. You see, leadership never was about power, position, perks, prestige, or privilege. Instead, it’s always been about people, and it has always manifested itself as someone of character. Anne Frank said, “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.”

Mallory Holtman, the conference home run king, embodies this goodness. Her Central Washington softball team is behind in the second game of a double-header in a quest for the conference championship. As you may guess, there’s a lot at stake. Every decision matters, especially with their opponent at bat. On the second pitch in the top of the second inning of the second game with two runners on, Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hits her first career home run. But there’s a problem. Only a true leader will do what Mallory does next.

Mallory and her Central Washington team went on to lose the game that day. But what they found will carry them — and all of the graybeards who realize just how much they have to learn from young & emerging leaders like Mallory — through a lifetime: leadership is love.

The next time we go looking for leadership, let us remember leadership without love is no leadership at all.

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Monica Diaz  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Jack… I love it! This is such a truly touching, simple and clear example of stepping up to do the right thing. It changes everyone involved.

Jack King  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Monica, There is SO much we can learn from Mallory (and so many other young & emerging leaders)! Her leadership is nothing short of inspiring!

Dave Carpenter  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply


Words seem trite after your awesome post and accompanying video.

Awesome post and awesome illustration of the fact that leadership is NOT a function of age. And, a great illustration of why your quest to root Norfolk Center as a gathering point for teens to learn more about servant leadership is such an important mission.

For me, also a great reminder of just how great kids are before we adults “teach” them our way.

My friend, that is truly a home run!

Jack King  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Dave, Thank you for your kind words and your encouragement. Young folks demonstrate leadership everyday. Often – perhaps more often than adults – theirs is an other-centered leadership, as we see in this video. It’s my hope, in communities around the globe, adults will continue to reach out to young people, embrace them, and nurture the servant’s hearts within. So many in our world are counting on it!

Susan Mazza  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply

WOW Thank you Jack for sharing this inspiring demonstration of character based leadership in action. For me your last line says it all…leadership without love is no leadership at all.

Jack King  |  03 Aug 2010  |  Reply

It was my great pleasure, Susan. There are so many lessons these girls can teach all of us about sacrifice, teamwork, compassion, courage, character, the serving nature of leadership and, yes, love.

Contessa Kung  |  04 Aug 2010  |  Reply

I’m not sure why people are so touched by this video. I think Mallory’s act is the natural thing to do. She didn’t do it to inspire anyone. She didn’t do it to become a hero. She did it simply because for her it’s the right thing to do. Maybe that’s the lesson here. Adults forget the purity and simplicity of youth. Having said that, I admit that I was touched by the video. I am reminded of how it is to be young and brave and unselfish.

Jack King  |  04 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Thank you, Contessa, for sharing your wonderfully illuminating insights. I am in complete agreement: the young are, indeed, brave and unselfish. Thankfully, some adults are, too. I suppose all of us could be brave and unselfish again, to the extent we become willing to see with our hearts instead of our heads. Seems to me the pressures of life (and, to a large extent, peer expectations) cast long, dark shadows of status quo against the great wall of inertia. We find it difficult to make out the lines that separate right from ‘not-so-right.’ In the darkness, we have found fear and we have lost our sense of other-centeredness … all because we have misplaced the courage of our youth. Let us remember the young are forever looking up to us for example. They may not admit it. We may not see it. What matters, of course, is not what we see but, instead, what it is THEY see. How many of us would set aside (e.g., risk) our ‘bottom line’ (personal, professional, or otherwise) to do what Mallory did? Is Mallory’s action, even among her peers, the rule or, sadly, the exception? What are we teaching them? What are they ‘un-learning?’ If we want them to retain their courage, we must first be courageous. If we want them to discover the serving nature of leadership, we must first serve. If we want them to realize leadership without love is no leadership at all, we must first love. Purity and simplicity, for all, lies just beyond the shadows.

Jamie  |  04 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Wow. Thank you for sharing this, it was beautiful – thank you!

Jack King  |  04 Aug 2010  |  Reply

It was my great pleasure, Jamie. I, too, found much beauty in this powerful story of courage and compassion.

Jay Singh  |  04 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Thank you Jack for sharing this amazing story.

The biggest lessons can come from the most unexpected of places, but kids have always been in front teaching us the meaning of life.

Children come to us as perfect beings showing us glimpses of the greatness we may have left behind.

Thank you again.

JohnDWatt  |  05 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Monica, Jack, Dave, Susan, Contessa, Jamie and those to follow: your comments are as powerful as the story of teenage leadership and compassion in the video.

Jack, your message penetrates through to my core, shining a bright lamp to dissipate those shadows: “If we want them to retain their courage, we must first be courageous. If we want them to discover the serving nature of leadership, we must first serve. If we want them to realize leadership without love is no leadership at all, we must first love. Purity and simplicity, for all, lies just beyond the shadows.”

Jack King  |  06 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Jay, John: Thank you ever so kindly for dropping by. Your wonderful comments have me thinking. John F Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Seems to me he was not suggesting we become better leaders by merely referring to wisdom gleaned from books, or the sages who write them. Instead, I believe he reminds us when we fail to take notice, we fail to lead. Ken Blanchard, in his writings, points out, “Leadership is not something you do to people; it’s something you do with people.” For me, Kennedy and Blanchard sing the same song. There is a simple knowing left behind in the days of our youth we, as adults, would do well to retrieve. Certainly, walking our talk is important but, as I see it, it’s not enough to walk our talk if our talk fails to authentically connect. And the best way for it to connect is for it to take pause and give room for others to ‘speak’ (through word and deed), most esp when ‘others’ include young and emerging leaders. It has been my experience the one thing young people want from adults is to be noticed. The way to notice them is to engage them in conversation — not talk at them, but talk with them … and walk with them. When this happens, our walk begins to speak loud enough we have little need for further ‘talk.’ In saying less, it seems to me we actually communicate more … and we communicate more deeply. For me, this is how we learn, this is how we lead, and this is how we find our way out of the shadows.

Sonia Di Maulo  |  06 Aug 2010  |  Reply


I watched Sara and Mallory’s story earlier this week and have been thinking about it every since. The comments here have made me ponder further.

The leadership and love that Mallory exhibited may have grown in her all at once at that very moment… it’s possible! But what may very well be more possible is that she was exposed to servant leadership, love, and people doing the right thing for a while… that’s what I would like to believe. For Mallory there was no other solution because that’s what people around her would have done… that’s what she’s been taught to do!

Here’s a quick story.

My son has been playing summer soccer for 4 seasons (he’s 8). This year he was blessed with a coach who is a true leader; setting examples and leading with heart. On Wednesday the other team was missing players so he shared his players with them so that the kids could play. They played together and not against each other. When other coaches would have called the win and gone home, Nick used the event as an opportunity to lead with heart!

A simple act that provided these young minds with a powerful message that I believe will follow them as they grow into leadership themselves (perhaps future Mallorys). The parents were pretty impressed too!

And I thought of your post the whole time! Lovely…

Thanks again for sharing this,

Jack King  |  11 Aug 2010  |  Reply

Thank you, Sonia, for sharing such a touching story that drives home the great need for adults to step up to the serving nature of leadership and set an example for young people to follow. Young folks need real heroes in their life, heroes that are somehow connected to them and care for them. They need heroes who are other-centered. And they need heroes who are not afraid to ask tough questions like, “Why can’t leadership ALWAYS be about playing together rather than against one another?” Our young people need their community, and they need their community to embrace them. It should come as no surprise our young people are also in desperate need of community leaders to show them the way; leaders who, to borrow the words of the ancient Greeks, make gentle the life of their world. When all is said and done, it seems to me all of us, young and old alike, share many of the same needs. Chief among them is our desire for true leadership, a leadership that finds room for everyone, a leadership that loves.

Paul Ke  |  20 Aug 2010  |  Reply

This message was sent as a link by my pastor, Clare Braun. As a senior sales Christ loving manager in a cut throat, fast paced commissioned sales environment, I attempt to find the heart to lead as a servant.

I would like to thank you for sharing this message so that Clare was then able to share it with me. i will now pass it forward to my staff. This is the exact message that I relay in every training session with my sales team. I am blessed to have an owner whom has trusted me with his staff and am also blessed so many other responsibilities that the Lord has entrusted to me. I just further shared this message with my 12 year old son.

Thanks again for the reminder of ‘doing right’.


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