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Leadership Lessons—It Just Takes One Leader

Last Friday my wife, Mary Kay, and I had a chance to join a Mission Waco appreciation breakfast for 600 people at Waco’s convention center. The Dwyer Group sponsored a table and it was great to go back and see some of the people we joined in Haiti late last year. Even our Doctor was at the breakfast. He has gone to the same village we visited, Ferrier, to volunteer his services a few times.

How does something like this happen?

It all starts with one person, or in this case one couple—Jimmy and Janet Dorrell. In 1978 they bought a house in one of the worst sections of Waco and found their calling. They changed the world for so many in Waco while touching lives in Haiti, India and Mexico. Each week a group of volunteers offers a free breakfast for the poor in Waco who can’t afford a meal. On Sundays Jimmy holds a church service for the poor and homeless under one of Waco bridges. “Church under the Bridge” often attracts more than 300 people.

On Wednesday night my wife and I watched the kickoff of the Rio Paralympics which were held at the same stadium where the Olympics kicked off last month. This year more than 4,300 athletes will compete in 528 events in 22 sports. Opening ceremonies were much more inspiring than their counterpart held August 5th. Also, it was just as extravagant!

I wondered how these games started. Again, it was one leader.

After World War II, Dr. Ludwig Guttman opened a spinal injury center in Great Britain at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It was to help the large number of war veterans who were injured fighting for their countries. The Olympics were held in London that year and Dr. Guttman held a competition at those games for 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in an archery competition. The doctor called it the “Stoke Mandeville Games.”

By 1960, the first official Paralympic games were held in Rome, again, simultaneously with the Rome Olympics. Four hundred athletes from 23 countries competed. In 1976, the first Paralympic Winter games were held in Sweden.

I assumed, wrongly, that the word “paralympic” had something to do with being paralyzed. Instead, the word comes from a Greek word “para” meaning beside or alongside and the word Olympic. Paralympic simply means games that are parallel games to the Olympics.

Thank God for Dr. Guttman—another example of one leader making a difference.

This weekend 2,000 individuals will meet at the JW Marriott in San Antonio for The Dwyer Group’s 35th annual Reunion. Glass Doctor has been part of The Dwyer Group since 1998. This all started when one leader, Don Dwyer, got fired from his previous partnership and started the company with one concept—Rainbow.

So often it just starts with one leader.

Speaking of the Marriott, I looked back and realized I’ve stayed at five different Marriott brands in the past year. They have more than 4,100 properties in 80 countries. How did it start?

With one leader—J. Willard Marriott opened up a root beer stand with only nine stools in 1927. He had a philosophy to take care of his associates knowing then they would take care of the customers. For the next 58 years he built the Marriott brand on that principle. It remains part of the company’s culture today.

These are four examples of leaders that changed the world. The challenge for all of us is to find a way to change our own world. Who knows what can happen then?

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