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Higher Purpose: Ten Common Characteristics Shared By 'Life-Saving' Leaders


In a world where the preservation of "life" is the highest purpose any human being can uphold, what are 10 common characteristics shared by legendary leaders charged with doing just that.

And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more. Luke 12:48

Beginning with our own genesis, humankind has placed the preservation of “life” above all else. Such is the reason we’ve fought so hard throughout history to maintain it and why we hold those charged with safeguarding it in such high esteem.

The value of “life” is beyond measure or simple explanation as are the leaders made responsible for overseeing its sanctity and continued existence. And yet, even amongst the creme-de-la-creme of leadership, there remains a chosen few who epitomize the absolute best this group has to offer.

I call these leaders "life-saving" leaders because without them, considerable more lives would be lost -- their sage-like wisdom, insight, guidance, and talent so pertinent to the peaceful evolution of mankind and the world.

I was recently and profoundly reminded of this truth through the most unexpected of circumstances – “book-worthy really given I shared the entire story but remiss of the necessary relevance to warrant doing so. I will say, however, that my personal belief in the old saying that “there is a reason for everything” remains well intact as does my insistence that, in life, there are no accidents -- only unexpected moments, deliberate to the design and formation of future clarity.

So goes my meeting with Dr. John A. Elefteriades - an extraordinary life-saving leader - whose inspirational and accomplished nature compelled me to compare similarly altruistic and legendary leaders (spanning all the way back to the Bible) and come up with 10 characteristics seemingly common to every one of them.

Dr. John Elefteriades. Photo Credit: Yale School of Medicine Dr. John Elefteriades. Photo Credit: Yale School of Medicine

"Who is Dr. John A. Elefteriades?" might you ask and why did I find myself so moved by this remarkable man and world-renowned Cardiothoracic surgeon to the point that I left our initial meeting with thoughts of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandella, Abraham Lincoln, Noah and a pethora of other history making leaders looming through my head?

I will tell you.

Dr. John A. Elefteriades is the son of Greek immigrant parents whose loving, supportive, and hard-working demeanors provided John and his siblings with strong work ethics, grounded principles, and secure futures based on confidence, competance, education, intellect, and personalities that can only be described as exceptionally warm and gracious.

Dr. E (short for "Elefteriades") would go on to integrate all of these characteristics into every aspect of his unprecedented career -- which began as an undergraduate attending Yale University (where he triple majored in Physics, French, and Psychology) and would continue on as the William W.L. Glenn Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Yale University and Yale New-Haven Hospital.

One of the most clinically active academic surgeons in the country, Dr. E is a frequently requested international lecturer, visiting professor and guest surgeon. Dr. E directs the Center of Thoracic Aortic Disease at Yale and serves on multiple scientific advisory and editorial boards. His monumental achievements include the writing of approximately 150 medical research papers and numerous books that are designed to help the common man understand his or her own heart. And if that is not enough, Dr. E's crowning achievement is the treatment of well over ten thousand patients throughout his career -- with everyone of them receiving the care and compassion of a man who puts his own heart on the table next to each of the patients'.

Given that you now understand the breathe of Dr. E's accomplishments, I am amply satisfied that you clearly ascertain how interesting and inspiring a man like this can be and thus, my motivation to relate and compare him to other life-saving leaders in an effort to conclude shared characteristics. For the purposes of this article, I will lean on the story of “Noah’s Ark” to shed additional light where necessary -- so closely do I find this particular story emulates the oath taken by all physicians to preserve life and restore health.

Ten Common Characteristics:

  1. Possesses The Optimal Skills, Personality, and Intellect To Succeed At Accomplishing The Task At Hand – Both Noah and Dr. E emerged from humble beginnings, which inarguably impacted the development of the particular skills, personalities, and intellects required to carry out monumental feats such as the building of a 450-foot ark with little more than his bare hands or becoming a “world renowned” Cardiothoracic surgeon and highly distinguished professor at Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital amongst a host of other hefty accomplishments and titles.
  2. Strong Belief In A Higher Power – It is not uncommon for leaders, who champion so vital a cause as “life” itself, to do so on behalf of an even stronger belief in a high power. Dr. E readily admits to prayer, especially during times of distress, uncertainty, or imminent casualty.
  3. Rises To The Occasion Even When The Occasion Is Unexpected – Such is the case for Noah when God suddenly knocked on his door and altered how we looked upon him for eternity. Dr. E’s experience and reaction was little different, except to say that the man who would, ultimately, change his life forever was a Yale recruiter who ambushed Dr. E with grand enthusiasm, initially, then made him his devout mission until Dr. E finally yielded.
  4. Accepts His Place In The Larger Plan – Such leaders demonstrate a quiet confidence that “everything” is exactly right – quickly moving beyond any initial questioning and becoming one with their higher purpose.
  5. Keeps His “Higher Purpose” First Despite Personal Hardship – Certainly the strain and ridicule Noah endured as a result of his singular devotion to God’s direction could not have made it easy for him to continue to build that monstrous ark, especially under the weight of his own humanity. And yet he did.
  6. Lives A Somewhat “Isolated” Existence Despite His Notoriety – Large purposes require lots of time, which leaves little time for what the rest of the world would consider “conventional” living. Thus - to leaders like Dr. E - his “inner circle” becomes that much more dear.
  7. Develops Worthwhile Methods Of Self-Preservation And Personal Growth - As extraordinary feats require extraordinary character and strength, the ability to learn how to effectively, mindfully, and graciously “cope” under the daily pressure imposed by an extraordinary purpose remains a significant factor in defining the actual greatness and true motivations of a leader. The recent release of Dr. E’s newest action-adventure novel “Transplant” by Penguin Group represents one highly productive way Dr. E has learned to manage his own demands and stress. He writes.
  8. Maintains Strong Ethics Aided By A Healthy Ego - I needn’t go far to illustrate the harmful consequences resultant of leaders whose egos get the better of them. Just look around you. The abandonment of ethics severely compromises the ability of any leader to competently carry out the duties, responsibilities, and goals bestowed upon him just as misplaced egos stand in the way of continued learning. An overblown ego marks the beginning of the end for any leader.
  9. Remains Unwavering In His Commitment Even During Moments Of Uncertainty – Just as Noah kept building that ark even though evidence of rain during the entire process was remiss, leaders DON’T give up on fulfilling their higher purposes just because a few storms roll in. They accept the challenging moments as part of the larger plan and continue forward.
  10. Demonstrates Continued Devotion To The Preservation of Life And Improvement of Mankind – A few days after I interviewed Dr. E, he was scheduled to leave on a lecture series that would force him to be away from his usual environment for three weeks time – a challenging reality further evidencing Dr. E’s abiding commitment to his work and higher purpose. All one need do is read Dr. E’s bio posted by The Yale School Of Medicine to realize where this Cardiothoracic surgeon’s own heart lies. Needless-to-say, when asked if he would do it all again - despite the pressure, strain, and hardships endured -- this remarkable leader and surgeon did not hesitate in answering... “He absolutely would.”

To me, leaders like Dr. E are the type of bastions you want on your side when it comes to the preservation of life and hope – those who intimately understand the value of the human heart from the inside out, not to mention, the power of the human spirit. After all, in order to safeguard them properly, one must know them fully…and what better way to “know them” at all than by demonstrating them in one’s own daily life.

No doubt, many a great leader would agree…including the Big Guy upstairs – the leader, ultimately, responsible for assigning “purpose” to every one of us.

Laura Wellington is a successful media and technology entrepreneur, award-winning television creator, author, major media blogger, television personality, consultant, and mother.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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