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Who Is the Greatest Leader You’ve Ever Met?

It’s one of the questions I’m asked most frequently in leadership circles: “Who is the greatest leader you’ve ever met?”

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest leaders in the world—men and women who are having a profound impact on the lives of thousands of people. So when people ask me this question, I have a hunch they’re expecting me to drop names and talk about sitting at the feet of a renowned leader as they poured principles into me like Yoda did for Luke Skywalker.

However, the greatest leader I’ve ever known is someone you have most likely never heard of.

Her name is Helen Noble.

Helen was never a president. She wasn’t a CEO. She wasn’t the head of a big nonprofit or the pastor of a megachurch.

Helen was my mother.

I only had the privilege of knowing her for 12 years, but the way she led me during that time has profoundly shaped the way I see life and leadership. Her life is proof that leadership isn’t about the position you hold but rather the person you are.

I’ll never forget the day I found out my mother had cancer.

She had been scheduled for a routine operation in which she was going to have her gallbladder removed, and when the doctors began to operate they discovered cancer had covered the inside of her body.

The school bus dropped me off that day, I walked home and was surprised to see several cars in my driveway.

My dad was inside and had been waiting on me to tell several of the family members who he had gathered the news.

“The doctors found cancer, they have said it’s too late and she will most likely never come home as she needs constant medical attention.”

I ran into the woods behind our house and cried for what seemed like hours.

I can remember thinking if this is what God was like, I wanted NOTHING to do with Him!