What Does Great Leadership Look Like?

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images

by Julie Foudy

Volumes upon volumes of books and papers and articles and essays and poems and perhaps even haikus 🙂 have been written on this topic, by very smart people, with lots of titles, most often in positions of power. But that is obviously not a prerequisite to defining leadership.

I am more fascinated by the people who, regardless of job position or educational background or wealth or upbringing, understand that leadership is personal not positional.

To me, leadership is about making positive actions contagious. Positive actions alone are nice of course, but the best leaders inspire others to do the same. And so I return to the question John posed to me: what does great leadership look like?
It looks beautifully diverse. The setting doesn’t really matter…It could be in an office, on a field, in a classroom, in a house, in a car, in a cubicle. It could be alongside 50 year-olds or 5 year-olds. It could be with many dollars on the line or even better, many M&M’s on the line. It could be about touching one life or touching millions.

The common denominator in all of this is it not only MATTERS to the person/group/community/country (you fill in the blank) alongside you, but it MOTIVATES.

And the encouraging thing in my mind is bigger does not always = better leadership. Many people wrongly think that unless they change their world in one swooping action, they have not been leaders.

That way of thinking can cause paralysis.

Small gestures can have a huge impact as well. Sure, we want to inspire many others to do positive actions, but on days when one person has taken a positive action because of YOU, what a wonderful example of leadership.

Live. Lead. Pass it on.

Julie Foudy

juliefoudy2Julie created The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy for girls ages 12-18 and is recognized throughout the world for creating young leaders both on and off the soccer fields.

In addition, Julie served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, worked closely and tirelessly with Billie Jean King, Donna Lopiano and an amazing board of athletes, business leaders and others, all committed to equality for women and girls in sports as well as in business, and also lead campaigns to encourage young girls to be physically active, as that means so much to their self esteem.

Julie invested a significant amount of time meeting with congressional leaders about Title IX, and she personally had to became a strong advocate to protect the law from being weakened, which was the intent of some members of congress, who I have to think were misguided. I have been told me that it was Julie who saved the day for Title IX.

Julie is a graduate of Stanford, deferred her acceptance to Stanford Medical School to join the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, which she captained, and which won two gold and a silver medal in the Olympics and two World Cup championships. She was elected into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, actually along with Mia Hamm, and they were the first all-female class.

Now Julie is an analyst and a reporter for ABC and ESPN, and she is currently working on a special for the program, Outside The Lines.

Julie and her husband, Ian, have a young daughter and son, whom are often seen being carried by Julie on her hip or at her side, as she tries to have them with her as much as possible with her travels. She is a very busy person. For example, the above piece she wrote about what great leadership looks like, was written on a plane to Sweden where she is doing investigative reporting for Outside The Lines.

I believe that Julie is the most natural and effective leader I have known!