When you played cowboys and Indians as a kid, did you want to be the cowboy or the Indian? I wanted to be the Indian. All the ones I saw in comic books had supercool moccasins and could move around with their bow and arrows without making a sound. And there were plenty of famous Native Americans from which to choose. We all knew about Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Tonto, Pocahontas and Crazy Horse. Because his name better fit my personality, I chose Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse was a member of the Lakota tribe, a part of the Sioux nation. He was born around 1840 in the area that is now Wyoming and became a brave defender of Native American land being stolen by white settlers. His fame as a leader grew after the defeat of Coronal George Custer’s 7th Calvary at the Battle of Big Horn River on June 25, 1876.
Crazy Horse was shy as a young man. He was also a leader. Author John Neihardt described Crazy Horse in his book, Black Elk Speaks, as a person of great modesty and reserve but who was generous to the poor, the elderly, and children. “Everybody liked him,” wrote Neihardt, “and would do anything he wanted or go anywhere he said.”
Early in his life Crazy Horse went on a vision quest to seek guidance about his life. In his vision, a warrior on a horse came up directly out of a nearby lake and seemed to float above him. The warrior had no face paint or decoration. Even though bullets and arrows were flying around him, none hit the warrior. Crazy Horse’s father interpreted the vision to mean if he remained modest and open, he would not be harmed in battle. Leaders today do not need to go on a vision quest to learn the power of transparency.
Great leadership carries the trait of trustworthiness because it is borne of openness and vulnerability. We trust people who are transparent and forthright. It is the trait of people willing to pioneer and experiment. They carry a personal vision of excellence, even when there is no plan for success. They boldly take initiative, not out of duty or response to command, but from a strong sense of purpose.
Memo to Leaders: Encourage associates to set goals and objectives high. As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll wind up among the stars.” Be a champion of greatness. Never tolerate mediocrity…in yourself, in others, in anything…ever. Share stories of greatness and invite examples of excellence from others. Speak in possibilities not in restrictions.