The Greatest

Leadership Lessons from Muhammad Ali

I remember hearing “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. The description of a man that was bigger than life. To many people, Muhammad Ali was many things, but to Louisville, he was their son, their icon, even their idol.

Growing up in Louisville, I learned a lot about Ali. From his days as Cassius Clay, being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam draft, to his fights for humanity. When Ali spoke, he stood by it, even backed it up.

I had the privilege of meeting Ali several times over recent years. His declining health was a reminder that even The Greatest has to answer to time and age. It allows for an eye opening opportunity to remind us all that our days are limited and we need to make the best of each day.

How Ali Impacted Me

Ali’s life was a testament to what he believed. Leaders could learn a lot from a man so dedicated to training and knowing his own weaknesses to better himself. Millennials could learn a lot about engagement and even though they may feel entitled to something, they have to fight for it.

Leadership lessons from Ali

  • AuthenticWith Ali, you got what you saw. He was who he was. It was once said that “It’s not bragging if you can back it up..” Ali could back up his trash talking ways. When he was trash talking his opponents, he was setting the stage for an amazing fight, wanting only to fight the best of the best.
  • DedicationBoxing is an insane sport. The levels of fitness are insane, but as Gary Vaynerchuk points out, boxing is one of the most intense mental games there is. Ali was dedicated to training, studying, and growing each and every day.
  • Values
    Regardless if you agree with his values or not, Ali stood by them. He was prepared to pay a hefty price by standing by his values. When someone takes a stand it is an amazing thing, when they are facing prison and remain committed to their stance, it is iconic. Ali was one man that stood so firm it made it difficult to question his values.
  • Futuristic
    It was always the future that kept Ali going. His goals gave him the passion and drive to fight another day. His dreams and goals took Ali from a rough neighborhood in west Louisville to a world icon.
  • Failing ForwardJohn C. Maxwell writes about failing forward, the concept that failures will happen, but they only remain failures when we don’t learn from them. Ali learned from every misstep and definitely each loss in the ring. His goal was to do it right.

So what can Millennials learn from Ali? That he saw the status quo and didn’t like it. He challenged the system and stood firm to change it. He was bigger than the world and knew the WHY that pushed him further. During Ali’s time, they “were a changing” much like the changes Millennials are demanding today.


Question: What does Muhammad Ali mean to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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