These Amazing Leaders From History Showed Us How Determination Works

01/12/2016 11:46 AM AEDT | Updated 32 minutes ago
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If history has shown us anything it's that great leadership, either at home, work or in even an oval shaped office, requires a healthy dose of persistence and determination. That's a knockout combo when it comes to inspiring others, as shown by these five amazing leaders.

1. Hillary Clinton, 67th United States Secretary of State

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Hillary Clinton speaks during a press conference at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel the day after the election on Wednesday November 9, 2016.

Never before has the saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again" been more applicable. Hillary Clinton has spent a career overcoming adversity -- both personal and professional -- while also blazing a trail for those who follow in her footsteps. "Hillary Clinton is a good example of getting knocked down a hundred times and getting back up again," Professor Kane said in the days following her loss to Donald Trump. "Every step of the way, she's had to fight."

From her time as First Lady to her latest role in 2016 as the Democratic Party's nominee for President, Clinton has faced trials and tribulations that would break most people. But not her, the fight within is far too ferocious and it's a characteristic that has made Hillary the leader she is today, according to Dr Fraser. "Hillary has experienced the hurt but she's kept her eye on the end goal," the psychologist said. And while Hillary's end goal may still be out of reach, the example she's set to others has never been more tangible. Indeed, the democratic candidate who could have become the first female President inspired a global hashtag #imwithher and the support of vocal public figures from Lena Dunham to Leonardo DiCaprio, and even a slew of prominent Republicans.

Despite losing out to Trump, Clinton continued the theme of inspiring her supporters in her concession speech, using the platform as a call to arms for others to follow in her lead. "I have spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in," she explained to her followers. "I have had successes and I have had setbacks, sometimes really painful ones and this loss hurts but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it."

2. Nelson Mandela, Former prisoner and the first President of South Africa

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President Nelson Mandela addresses the South African National Congress in September 1990


After twenty seven years in prison, most of us would just be happy to see the light of day again, but not Nelson Mandela. The man who would become South Africa's first president knew he was destined for greatness. "There's a story of when Mandela was 21 years old and he told his friends, 'One day I'll be president of this country,'" Professor John Kane, political scientist at Griffith University said. While an inmate at Robben Island, he refused to let his struggle dim his destiny.

"When he was there, he started studying other leaders," Professor Kane said. "So even in prison he knew that there was a future if he could survive." It's this reaction to struggle that came to define Mandela -- to survive was to thrive. Dr Adam Fraser, a psychologist who specialises in peak performance, points to Mandela's story as a learning experience. "When you're in struggle, focus on the growth that can come out of it," Dr Fraser explained.

3. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

From a tiny town in Honolulu to the highest office in American politics, there's no denying the journey Barack Obama has taken to the top. But it hasn't always been easy for the smooth talking orator. He battled through law school, ran for the US Senate, before securing the top job and becoming the first African American President in the process. "Barack Obama used his authenticity to overcome his struggles," Dr Fraser said.

Professor Kane agrees, the take home lesson being that good leadership requires a degree of trustworthiness. "Leadership is reliant on people -- (knowing) who is listening to you, who is being influenced by you," Professor Kane said. "Obama has mastered the art of influencing, through years of facing uphill battles."

4. Gough Whitlam, Australia's 21st Prime Minister

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Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (right) at a press conference at Australia House, London, at the end of an official visit to Britain, 25th April 1973.

When Gough Whitlam rose to power as Australia's Prime Minister in 1974 -- after 23 years of Liberal Government -- he did so off the back of a single slogan, "It's Time." This actually says more about Gough and his pursuit for greatness than most people know. "He was certainly in many ways the right person for the right time," John Kane said.

When it comes to leadership, an ability to spot the right time for change and when the people are itching for a fresh face, is just as important as being the right person to lead that movement. "Timing is very important, twenty three years of conservative government made the 'It's Time' slogan resonate and being able to notice that was Gough's strength," Professor Kane explained.

Having your finger on the pulse has proven to be a trait that is common amongst leaders who are able to instigate change. "Gough had lived through the turbulent 60s, the Vietnam War, the explosion of youth culture and he knew that his liberal social policies also resonated in a new modern era," Kane said. Gough was a towering leader, both physically and in terms of policy, and while his Prime Ministership came to a controversial end in 1975, he remains an inspirational figure.

5. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts while speaking to the media with President of Chad Idriss Deby in October.

No matter how you frame it, Angela Merkel has a monopoly on minorities. She's a divorced, female, scientist, from East Germany, who became her country's most respected politician. Still not impressed? Last year she was named TIME Magazine's Person of the Year. Oh, she's also the first female Chancellor of Germany. "At every step, she has displayed an intrinsic belief that she could do what needed to be done," Professor Kane said.

This unwavering sense of self has paid dividends for Merkel, who has received critisicm for her unpopular stances on important issues. "To be a good leader you sometimes have to go beyond what your followers want, you have to sometimes be unpopular," Kane explained. Despite this, Merkel continues to inspire her people -- short term pain, long term gain.

At Johnnie Walker, we love sharing stories of personal progress, innovation and spirit. And why wouldn't we? Our own story is one of a pioneering spirit passed on from generation to generation. It's this belief in the philosophy of perseverance and progress that allows us to continuously share inspiring stories to all.

In this series, we are shining a light on people who approach life with this same philosophy – one of a humane, resilient and optimistic mindset, especially in the face of adversity that enables them to Keep Walking.

Johnnie Walker

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