Amelia Earhart: Lessons for Leaders

How much courage do you have? Enough to lead a global team or complete a difficult IT initiative on time or come in under budget? Child's play.

Don't brag too much. If you can accomplish these, you're simply par for the course.

Want to demonstrate real courage…true accomplishment? Test your mettle and show uncommon leadership? Pull an Amelia.


Take fifteen hours out of your life, all alone, no sleeping, sitting in a compartment no bigger than a box, and fly across the Atlantic as you watch ice form on your plane's wings and fire shoot out of your engine's exhaust pipe. That was Earhart's day on May 20, 1932. Raw courage.

Makes meeting your budget seem paltry, doesn't it?

Amelia Earhart lived life with courage and grace and a bit of humility. You could do no better than to look to this uncommon leader for inspiration.

The upcoming movie on Amelia Earhart's life, starring Hillary Swank, got me thinking about this iconic pioneer-hero and what business leaders can learn from her unflinching tenacity and courage.

In rereading her books, 20 Hours, 40 Minutes [the time it took for her first Atlantic crossing] and The Fun of It, I came across a number of quotes that could inspire any business leader:

  • Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.
  • Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.
  • The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.
  • Fears are paper tigers.
  • You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure. The process is its own reward.
  • Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.
  • Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn't be done.
The next time you're wavering, faltering or not focusing, take inspiration from my all-time favorite Amelia quote: "The most effective way to do it, is to DO it."

Post-script to Nike: shouldn't you at least footnote Lady Lindy when you use your/her tag line?