Having people to look up to ultimately can make you the best leader possible. But you can look beyond real individuals when you need models--there are fabulous examples of leaders you can learn from in fiction, too.
1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
Atticus Finch serves as the lawyer who defends a man of color, Tom Robinson, against allegations of sexual assault.
What you should learn:
- Follow your own compass. Atticus maintains his sense of morals against a social mob--he does not let their prejudice break his personal integrity, even when he knows he won't win.
- Earn admiration with steadfast behavior. Atticus is incredibly patient as a father to Scout and Jem, behaving consistently so that they learn to trust and see him as both reliable and worthy of respect.
- Don't hold grudges. Atticus recognizes that people are a mix of both good and bad and is willing to see them in their entirety with forgiveness.
2. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins)
Katniss is a woman selected to fight to the death as a "tribute" in gladiator-like competition.
What you should learn:
- Apply skills you already have. A skilled archer and hunter, Katniss turns to those abilities to survive during the games.
- Forge smart alliances. Katniss joins with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark in return for kindness he showed to her before the games. Whereas others in the game worry only about themselves, showing no mercy, Katniss and Peeta distinguish themselves and win the games through their warmth and cooperation. Peeta also protects Katniss against herself as her mental health deteriorates. Other friendships Katniss establishes, such as her bond with Finnick, help her understand she's not alone and what she truly wants.
- Listen for the truth even when you are upset. When Katniss's enemy, President Snow, finally is arrested and Katniss is about to execute him, he reveals that Alma Coin, one of the leaders of the rebellion against the government, allowed the death of Katniss's sister, Prim, to gain sympathy for the rebel cause. Katniss puts two and two together from what Snow says and delivers appropriate justice on Coin.
3. Gandalf the Grey (The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)
Gandalf is a wizard who uses all of his skills and power to guide and protect Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the Ring to Rule All Rings.
What you should learn:
- Don't be blind to what you're up against. Gandalf's leadership abilities start with his ability to recognize threats well in advance. He is exceptionally clear about what to do in the face of those risks.
- Well-placed rebukes mean growth. Gandalf repeatedly chastises those in the fellowship whenever they demonstrate foolishness, both because he knows what is at stake and because he believes in their ability to listen and learn from the experience.
- Have fun. Gandalf could be serious, but he saw the value in enjoyment and did his best to improve it in others, such as by bringing fireworks to a birthday party.
- Endure and stay loyal. Gandalf committed to the defense of the Fellowship of the Ring for the long haul, even when Saruman tried to force him to switch sides.
- Have the courage and humility to tackle what frightens you. Perhaps most famously, Gandalf was willing to stand alone under fantastic odds against the Balrog, a creature that seemed much more powerful, because he understood that the need for others to continue was greater than his own accomplishments or life.
4. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)
Hermione Granger is a young witch at the Hogwarts school and one of Harry Potter's best friends.
- Seek out and share knowledge as much as possible. Hermione has a natural inclination toward academic excellence, but she doesn't use it only for her own gain. She teaches those around her and uses her exceptional knowledge to protect everyone when they need it the most.
- Don't let insecurities keep you down. Hermione isn't naturally confident, according to her creator, J.K. Rowling. In fact, she's teased about being a "mudblood" and strives to be the best at everything largely to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. But whenever she is faced with a challenge, she is willing to take charge and focuses on the job at hand. And eventually, she embraces who she is, claiming she's proud of her heritage.
- Help others. Perhaps because she is treated poorly for having "normal" parents, or perhaps because she sees all of the forces out to get Harry, Hermione is always a defender of the defenseless. Because of her, they can live better and reach their fullest potential.