I was first asked this question a few years ago while having dinner with leadership trainer extraordinaire Paul Bridle, and I have to say I struggled to answer it.
Just three people… that’s so hard!
Okay, let me first list some historic people I admire, and then try to narrow it down from there. People I admire include:
– King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia (commonly known as “Ibn Saud”)
– Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.
– Howard Hughes, the serial entrepreneur and aviation pioneer. (yes, I also admire slightly mad people)
– Warren Buffet, billionaire investor.
– Walt Disney, creative genius.
– Gandhi, liberator.
– Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds.
– Richard Branson, mega-serial entrepreneur.
– Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter.
It’s almost impossible to choose three, as I admire each one for different reasons. The entrepreneur and “reconciliationist” in me would really conflict, but if you were to put a gun to my head and force me to choose just three, here’s the one’s I would choose:
1) Walt Disney:
When I read Disney’s biography, I was amazed to find out how much he struggled before he hit it big. Walt is the ultimate example of perseverance and determination. I also admire his obsessive attention to detail, and his innovative approach. Walt invented many new techniques in animation, and he was the first to create animations with sound, and then with colour. For me he is the perfect blend of entrepreneurial and creative genius.
Who doesn’t want to meet Gandhi, right? I would ask him how he managed to inspire a whole nation. He lived in the same era as Hitler, and they both inspired their nations and stirred millions into action. Hitler caused the death of tens of millions of people, while Gandhi liberated hundreds of millions, all the while espousing non-violence. I would sit at his feet and try to learn.
3) Nelson Mandela:
What can you say about a man who was imprisoned for 27 years for a cause he believed in, and then came out not holding any grudges? To say the man was saintly would be an understatement. Even before being released from prison, Mr. Mandela’s top priority was reconciliation and the creation of a democratic South Africa, not revenge. I would ask him what advice he had for me and my foundation.
Okay, so who would you choose? And why?