Megalos kai Kalos – Great and Good. I kept on seeing this expression of “Great and Good” in my readings of accomplished leaders of character and competence.
Here is Frederick Douglas’ dedication to a monument honoring Lincoln in 1876:
“..there is little necessity on this occasion to speak at length and critically of this great and good man [my italics], and high mission in the world.”
Staying with the civil war period, author Alice Rains Trulock describes the famous former college professor who became the hero of the Battle of Gettysburg in a similar manner:
“Joshua L. Chamberlain was a great American hero and a genuinely good man.” – In the hands of providence,
In the area of statesmanship we see the observation of the character and conduct of the late UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold;
“The conviction when one has finished [Markings, Hammarskjold’s journal] is that one has had the privilege of being in contact with a great, good and lovable man” – WH Auden
Even when these words Great and Good are not used we still see the impact of the concept. Here is how the author and sports journalist Ralph Wiley summarized the life of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson:
“Jackie Robinson’s life was built around service to an idea, ideal, or a cause. He was always at the service of something or someone: UCLA, the US Army, the Dodgers, the Republican Party, Branch Rickey, the NAACP. He was a champion that way to all people, not just blacks. Very few in history ever have had that.”
When we read that Jackie Robinson was a champion in selfless service of an ideal, or cause, we are really saying he was Great and Good.
Even a more mundane, recent example [Oct 2017] of leadership is revelatory. Sticking with baseball for a moment, I was reading recently about my beloved NY Mets. They just hired a new manager after a lackluster season below their high expectations. Here were the criteria they used to successfully complete their job search:
“Stressing their desire for a leader who had professional competence and personal excellence, Alderson said Callaway accepted the job after a three-hour lunch with Mets owner Fred Wilpon.
Professional competence and personal excellence are other ways to state Great and Good.
Lincoln, Chamberlain, Hammarskjold, Robinson. You will probably agree these individuals are worthy of being called Great and Good. But you may be asking yourself this list should include those famed leaders in history who actually were called by the epithet ‘the Great.’ As I discussed in part 1, leaders who historians call ‘the Great’ usually fall short of this exalted epithet. Lord Acton reminds us that “very few great men are good men.”
Why is that?
Because most observers of historical or modern leadership don’t seriously take into consideration the character and ideals of the leader.
The ideal standard of leadership excellence – Great and Good – is one of extra-ordinary achievement but also of exalted character with high ideals.