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Recently I was reading Fortune magazine’s annual compilation of the World’s Greatest Leaders. As I went through the list, I looked to see what makes these leaders so good at what they do, and wondered if my own work could ever favorably compare to the leadership these people have demonstrated.

The list, a who’s who of people from all walks of life—and one who is even as young as 16 years old—have accomplished a lot in their leadership roles. As I reviewed the stories of these leaders, it became clear that each person has achieved some level of notoriety or success, perhaps for inventiveness or good coaching. Tony Bennett, head basketball coach at the University of Virginia, for example, did a remarkable job of elevating a top-ranked team that had suffered a crushing tournament loss the year before into winners. It’s his job, after all, and he did it well.

Some names on the list are there because they have the financial means to provide funds for important social projects. Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, have contributed over $45 billion dollars toward global health programs focused on immunizations. And there’s Nigerian billionaire, Aliko Dangote, who represents one-third the value of his country’s stock exchange. After creating a more vital economic system for his homeland through his businesses, he has turned his wealth into humanitarian assistance in the form of nutritional programs for malnourished citizens. These are good and generous people whose leadership has enabled them the means to contribute.

I may never have the billions, or mere millions, to so significantly effect change through important causes. So instead, I searched for a lesson in the tales of outstanding executives, coaches, political leaders, and youth.

What makes these leaders special?

Fortune applauds a common characteristic in these leaders that helps make them good leaders: hardiness. It cites a study by Paul Bartone from the National Defense University (NDU) which found that hardiness of character is central to leadership success, and hardy personalities garnered the highest leadership ratings of West Point cadets. And what is hardiness? An ability to know that not every idea will work; that if things go wrong and a product or mission fails, that there is another opportunity to try again. It is the ability to endure difficult circumstances and not see the world as threatening. It is truly a shared trait in the chosen top fifty.

But there was something extra special about a few leaders, and they are the ones to emulate because they struck me as the ones who offer something more. Yes, they are like those hardy leaders—like Chip Bergh, who led a turnaround at Levi Strauss, and Michael Crow, who has increased enrollment at Arizona State University while also improving graduation rates and education metrics. For others, though, their job is sometimes more than being audacious and fearless about new product designs or an IPO. For some, the leadership comes with great danger, and the trait that embodies their hardiness also includes a strong dose of righteousness.

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Look at Anna Nimiriano, editor-in-chief of the Juba Monitor in South Sudan. As a voice for factual journalism and free speech as part of good governance, she works in constant threat of her life. Nine journalists in South Sudan have been killed in this decade, and all journalists are openly threatened by the country’s president and military supporters. Yet, regardless of the danger and uncertainty, Nimiriano continues her good work, her righteous work.

Another leader whose values show beyond the bottom line is Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist in Myanmar. He uses his public stature to encourage the building of Muslim schools for the Rohingya and to protest the government’s seizure of Rohingya farmland. His efforts landed him in jail for a time, and he’s been awarded the 2018 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

Lead or follow

These just and moral leaders are guided by something they value strongly: the right to free speech, the right to practice a religion without persecution, or the importance of providing vaccinations to children around the world. They are hard to mimic, but I couldn’t help but think if I could choose a leader to follow, I’d prefer one whose values are admirable and align with mine. If only every manager, boss, or leader could provide thoughtful guidance for success and goodness.

Of course, my job isn’t as conducive to saving babies, reporting on death threats, or developing farm programs for impoverished islands. That, however, does not free me from leading with integrity and a “rightness” that makes the world a better place—at least the world where others work with me.

How can any of us positively influence the world around us? From my family to the PTA, from my neighborhood to my business organization, I must ponder and define those values that I see as just, as deserving of time and attention, and as serving a human good for those around me. Fortune may not have me on its radar, but if I combine good actions with a hardy disposition and unflinching commitment to my values, the world will be a better place.

RELATED: 4 Leadership Lessons I Learned From Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

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